Over The Sea To Skye...

Over the Sea to Skye

Isle of Skye Bridge: 1992-1995

Contractor: Miller-Dywidag

Designer: Miller-Dywidag and Arup


chemcure for Skye Bridge 1

The Skye Road Bridge over Loch Alsh forms part of the A87, connecting the mainland with the Isle of Skye. It is a single span arch of concrete and steel, supported by two piers resting on caissons in the loch and one pillar on the island of Eilean Bàn.

A traditional ferry route operated from around 1600AD between the villages of Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland and Kyleakin on the island's east coast. Following construction of road and rail connections to Kyle of Lochalsh toward the end of the 19th century, discussions began regarding the construction of a bridge. Although the engineering task was well within the capability of the age (being much shorter than the Forth Bridge), the island's remote location and its small population meant the cost of a bridge could not be justified. By the 1980s increased prosperity and tourism in the islands, led to ever increasing volumes of traffic queuing for the ferries, and brought renewed calls for the construction of a road bridge.

A variety of locations and designs were proposed and the PFI contract was awarded to Miller-Dywidag, a consortium composed of Scottish company Miller Construction, German engineering company Dywidag International, and financial partner the Bank of America, designed in collaboration with civil engineering firm Arup. Construction began in 1992 and the bridge was opened on 16th October 1995.

The project was the first major capital project funded by the PFI, with a license to operate the bridge and charge a toll in exchange for funding the bridge's construction of some £25 million. There was immediate opposition to the toll and one day, following England's defeat by Germany at a football match, ferry workers allowed cars bearing German registration plates to cross for free!

An anti-toll campaign began, that included mass protests and prolonged non-payment. About 500 drivers were arrested for refusal to pay and 130 were subsequently convicted. Among those charged was Clodagh Mackenzie, an elderly lady whose land had been compulsorily purchased for the bridge's arrival in Skye, although the charges against her were subsequently dropped without explanation. Of those convicted, only the first, Andy Anderson, received a short prison term. Those charged for non-payment had to make a 140 mile round trip to Dingwall Sheriff Court, again crossing the bridge, and again many refusing to pay, thereby incurring a further criminal charge.

One campaigner, Robbie 'the Pict', argued that the legal paperwork for the tolls was incomplete, and that consequently the tolls themselves were illegal. He claimed that the "assignation statement" and license to charge a toll had never been given. Fiscal David Hingston in Dingwall, denied this claim, but admitted that he himself had been denied access to many government documents on the case, on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. Following the creation of the Scottish Parliament, and transfer of Scotland's road network to the Scottish Executive, it was announced in December 2004 that the bridge had been purchased and the collection of tolls ceased immediately.

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