Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Contingency plans after Forth Road Bridge closure

A view of the Forth Road Bridge which is closed to traffic until the New Year due to structural faults Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Forth Road Bridge is closed to traffic until the New Year due to structural faults

Businesses and organisations are making contingency plans after it was announced the Forth Road Bridge will be closed until the new year.

The closure has shut down the most direct route for vehicles travelling between Fife and Edinburgh.

The bridge will remain open to ambulances and police on emergency calls.

But more routine health service appointments could be affected by the closure.

The 51-year-old bridge was closed at midnight on Thursday after a defect was found in the steelwork of the tower at the north end of the crossing.

The crossing is a vital artery in Scotland's transport network and its closure has been greeted with shock and dismay.

It is normally used by more than 60,000 vehicles a day.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon chaired a meeting of the Scottish government's resilience committee on Friday to discuss what action could be taken to alleviate the disruption and further meetings are planned over the weekend.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Emergency services are still allowed to access the Forth Road Bridge

Police Scotland's Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: "I would urge all drivers to consider if your journey is necessary, and to consider other options like public transport. Please check the conditions before you set off and leave extra time if you must travel.

"The closure of the bridge does not affect our ability to respond to emergency calls, and officers will continue to answer 999 calls and carry out our daily tasks as normal."

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said motorists could expect "some hefty and stressful delays" over the busy Christmas period.

The Federation of Small Businesses said firms were alarmed and some taxi firms said they may have to put up prices.

The Road Haulage Association in Scotland said the move could have a "massive" cost attached to it.

And the Scottish Chambers of Commerce warned the cost to business would be "huge" in terms of higher transport costs and reduced productivity.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A workman closes a barrier at the Forth Road Bridge which is closed to traffic until the New Year due to structural faults

Fife Council said it was working with Transport Scotland to assist road users.

All road works have been cleared from main routes in west Fife and officials are looking at whether extra temporary parking could be made available at railway stations.

So far there have been no issues with schools or services such as meals on wheels though the council has said refuse collection times may have to change.

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: "Ambulances will continue to travel across the Forth Road Bridge when responding to emergencies.

"Arrangements are being made to maintain ambulance transport of non-emergency patients to appointments using alternative routes and hospitals, as appropriate."

NHS Fife has set up a hospital control team, which will meet twice a day, to monitor any impact of the closure on its services.

NHS Tayside and NHS Lothian said they were monitoring and evaluating the impact the closure was having on their services.

The closure could have a knock-on impact on rail services across the rest of the country.

ScotRail said it was adding extra carriages and staff for services on the rail bridge to and from Fife, saying it was a "national priority".

Transport minister Derek Mackay said: "We want to identify any available rolling stock from elsewhere. The current rolling stock in Scotland is used at maximum capacity.

"If some of it (the rolling stock) comes from another area, there has to be a degree of understanding about the support provided in view of the decision taken to close the bridge."

On the economic impact, he added: "We will engage with the business community and if there are any other measures we can take, we are all ears."

The Forth Road Bridge is scheduled to be replaced by a new crossing in about 12 months' time.

Once the new Queensferry Crossing opens, the old bridge will remain open to carry public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.

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