The full reopening of the Forth Road Bridge will be delayed until mid-March, a month later than planned, the Forth Bridge Unit has said. As a result, the Freight Transport Association is now calling for operators to be compensated.
Until the bridge is fully reopened, 600 HGVs will be able to travel Northbound on the bridge between 11pm and 4am nightly.
The Unit, which is operated by Amey and maintains the bridge, said that its monitoring systems have shown that phase two of planned repair work must be finalised before the bridge can be fully reopened. It added that high winds and wet weather has ‘limited the opportunities to carry out this sensitive phase’.
“Allowing limited access to the bridge when traffic is lighter will hopefully provide some relief to local hauliers while repair work continues,” said Scottish transport minister Derek Mackay. “90 per cent of traffic returned to the Forth Road Bridge in December and while we recognise that around 600 HGVs crossing the bridge each night does not get us to 100 per cent, it is a step in the right direction – with full reopening expected in mid-March.
“We will of course continue to explore every option to see if we can increase access as the trial develops.”
Mark Arndt, Amey’s account director for the bridge, said: “During the recent storms, the bridge has been closed to traffic, at times, because wind speeds have been so high and it wouldn’t be safe to have people out working in those conditions. Our teams are working flat out to complete the work necessary to fully reopen the bridge but our timetable is highly dependent on the weather and our priority has to be on safety.”
The FTA described the delay as “another blow for operators who have already suffered huge financial losses due to the bridge closure”.
“The European Commission’s extension to the relaxation of drivers’ hours ends on 15 February so we’ll be calling for a further extension to help logistics operators cope with the 50-mile detour,” said Chris MacRae, head of policy for Scotland.
“Some FTA members are losing thousands of pounds every day and this further delay will have a devastating effect on their businesses. Perhaps the bridge should have been closed for longer to all traffic to get the repairs done more quickly – repeatedly extending the closure to HGVs is playing havoc with our members’ planning,” he said.