THE Forth Bridge, opened in 1890, was deliberately over-engineered after the Tay Bridge disaster in 1879. It would appear the 1964 Forth Road Bridge was not, if its whole integrity depends on such individual small components.

To what extent was it "future-proofed" to allow for greatly-increased traffic volumes and weights? Planned in the late 1950s, despite car ownership taking off and freight transport becoming much heavier and increasing dramatically, did it allow only for similar increases to those from 1945? (Incidentally, NHS Fife's forward planning for our hospital capacity seems to extend only five years, mirroring Fife Council's for our secondary school roll, despite 2,000 new houses being proposed for their catchment areas).

As others argued in your columns in 2009/10, a bifurcated causeway over the Forth just upstream from Rosyth would have had numerous advantages over a new bridge, and would probably have been completed by now, but such ideas were never responded to by the Scottish Government (just as Edinburgh City Council never explained why the flexibility of trolley-buses versus trams was not considered a viable option).

Finally, in view of this metal failure, might I for a second time (Letters, October 22, so far unanswered) request through your columns categorical unequivocal assurances from knowledgeable experts of the integrity of the new bridge's steel bought from China, Poland and Spain, despite reports this year of France's nuclear inspectorate condemning all the Chinese steel intended for its Areva reactor?

John Birkett,

12 Horseleys Park, St Andrews.

IN 1773 engineer Alexander Stevens spanned the Clyde at Hyndford with a 4-arch bridge to cater for the only kind of traffic around at that time, namely foot and horse.

Today, more than 240 years later, Stevens’s handiwork still copes unfailingly with the same foot traffic and occasional horse, however these are completely outnumbered by every conceivable type of modern road vehicle, not least of all the coal-carrying juggernauts that service the local opencast industry.

Perhaps the hard-hats currently poking at the underside of the Forth Road Bridge might learn a lot by way of similar investigations underneath Stevens’s efforts at Hyndford, and others like it.

Ian Sommerville,

Port Bannatyne Marina, Isle of Bute.

THERE are two clear and important messages to emerge from the current Forth Road Bridge fiasco (“Share your car or work from home, bridge drivers urged”, The Herald, December 7, and Letters, December 7, 8 & 9).

The first is that when governments provide free stuff, it always has a cost elsewhere. This was the case in free university tuition (paid for by scrapping more than 140,000 further education college places) and is now the case in scrapping bridge tolls at a time when all budgets were under pressure.

The other message is that the SNP has mismanaged the maintenance of one of the major strategic traffic routes in the country, amongst many other things. (Incidentally, such a failure would cause any other party in any other times to lose the election in May: however in the post-truth politics of 2015 Scotland, their poll ratings will probably go up.)

Peter A Russell,

87 Munro Road, Jordanhill, Glasgow.