IN FETA’s ‘update report’ on the second internal cable inspection on the Forth road bridge in June 2008, Barry Colford, the chief engineer wrote: “there is a degree of confidence that the deterioration of the cables can be arrested by dehumidification prior to the strength loss reducing to a level where intervention is required.” In his meeting with myself and Paul Tetlaw of Transform Scotland on 16 July 2008, Barry Colford told us he was highly confident that drying the cables would arrest the corrosion. I later resigned from the Forthright Alliance and asked Barry Colford for permission to write in the media about his comments during our meeting. His press officer, Chris Waite confirmed in an email that I could use the phrase “highly confident” to describe FETA’s views of the drying process.

Before my article appeared FETA asked me to change the wording of my piece. FETA now said only that there was “a degree of confidence” that cable drying would arrest the corrosion. I refused to change my account of the meeting which had been witnessed by Paul Tetlaw and which had been confirmed in Chris Waite’s email. 

I felt that the difference between “highly confident” and “a degree of confidence” was extremely important. If the person responsible for the safety of the Forth road bridge was happy with the measures in place to tackle the corrosion, then how could the government make a convincing case that the bridge was unsafe and had to be replaced? The finance minister John Swinney had told parliament’s Transport Committee in February 2008 that he had no choice but to order a new bridge because he could not be sure that the corrosion affecting the main cable would be halted.

Yet the bridge chief engineer, who has to be able to sleep at night, said on the record in an open meeting with members of the public that he was “highly confident” that drying the cable would arrest the corrosion. 

The chief engineer’s endorsement of the cable drying process should be sufficient to convince Mr Swinney that he can no longer justify the spending of billions on a new bridge.


5 Responses to “COMMENT: Why won’t FETA tell the truth?”

  1. NB Says:

    You are being very critical of FETA.
    Are you not expecting rather a lot from a piece of cheese?

  2. brucewhitehead Says:

    Well, I was told they were very cultured…

  3. Chris Waite Says:


    If you check your email you will see that the phrase “highly confident” was never mentioned.

    What my email actually said was:

    “There is still a possibility we will not succeed.

    “It would be fair to say that we have a high degree of confidence that the corrosion can be halted.”

    Semantics perhaps, but please quote me accurately.

    Chris Waite

  4. brucewhitehead Says:

    Apologies Chris; you did indeed write as you have shown above, and I agree, it is semantics, as ‘high’ is equivalent to ‘highly’. However, after sending the above opinion to me, you changed your minds and insisted that “high” did not reflect Feta’s view. So can I now assume that you are now changing your opinion again and that Feta does have a high degree of confidence?

  5. The topic is quite hot in the net at the moment. What do you pay attention to while choosing what to write about?

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