Finance and Sustainability Secretary John Swinney told the Scottish Parliament on December 19th that "the Government has come to the view that the Forth Replacement Crossing should be a cable-stayed bridge with multi modal capacity on a route slightly to the west of the existing road bridge."
Mr Swinney said that "the new bridge with a segregated public transport corridor will cost between £3.25 billion and £4.22 billion at out-turn prices. Having taken the decision to build a bridge, work can now move forward on the legislative and procurement options for delivery.
"Further announcements on the details of the bridge as well as the authorisation and procurement processes will be made during 2008.
"Work is continuing on the procurement options and this will include consideration of the appropriate transfer of risk to the private sector, in line with current government policy on the development of the Scottish Futures Trust."
Transport Scotland will appoint a design consultant early in 2008 and the Government anticipates a submission for authorisation in 2009 and a procurement competition in 2010 leading to the appointment of a constructor in 2011.
John Swinney re-iterated several times to the media that the SNP administration has ruled out tolling on the new crossing but also confirmed that he expects that the procurement option chosen will be one that transfers significant risk to the private sector.
The detailed assessment of the crossing options focussed on four alternatives. A cable stayed bridge, a suspension bridge, a bored tunnel and an immersed tube tunnel.
The assessment was based on 6 criteria. Impact on the environment, operating restrictions, operational risk, cost, cost risk and time to construct.
Mr Swinney said that, with the possibility that the existing Forth Road Bridge may have to close to heavy goods traffic as soon as 2013 and that it may have to close altogether by 2020, the Government had to take action now to protect the Scottish economy.
He told reporters that, "We have opted for the crossing with the quickest construction time and the lowest cost. We will not know about the future position with the existing bridge until 2012. The decision we have announced today will minimise any possible period when HGVs may have to be diverted."
Most opposition parties welcomed the announcement though some MSP’s had favoured a tunnel.
CBI Scotland Assistant Director David Lonsdale said: "We have consistently argued that a new Forth crossing is a need-to-do, rather than a nice-to-do, and a vital component of the new infrastructure investment that our nation so badly needs.
"We are delighted with this decision by Scottish Ministers. The challenge now is for the government to get on with the construction of the new bridge as soon as possible."
The Scottish Government expects that the new crossing will be completed in nine years time.