Forth Road Bridge to reopen on Wednesday
The Forth Road Bridge is to reopen on Wednesday after temporary repairs were completed ahead of schedule.
It will open at 06:00 to all traffic except HGVs.
The bridge was closed to all traffic on 4 December after a crack was discovered in a truss under the carriageway.
It will reopen almost two weeks earlier than officials had promised. They said engineers had installed a steel splint to repair the cracked truss at the north end of the bridge.
The 51-year-old bridge, which runs between Fife and Edinburgh, is used by an estimated 70,000 vehicles a day and its closure caused significant disruption to commuters and businesses.
Cars, buses, coaches and cycles will be able to use the bridge again from Wednesday morning.
Restrictions on the A985 in west Fife, which has been a HGV priority route, will also be lifted.
The partial opening of the bridge follows load testing, including sending lorries over the bridge in different patterns over five hours of tests on Saturday.
The results from the load testing showed that the movement in the pin located at the lower section of the truss end link was not sufficient to support HGV traffic.
Vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes will not be allowed on the bridge until a permanent repair is in place, which will take about six weeks depending on the weather and no further defects being identified.
Ministers said the bridge should reopen to HGVs in mid-February and they will discuss with hauliers the operational support that can be offered to them during the period when they cannot access the bridge.
Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said the continued ban on HGVs would have a "massive impact".
"The major distribution centres on the northern, Fife-side of the river are totally reliant on an efficient, swift transport system and we have had many reports from members who are already struggling to keep to their pre-Christmas delivery schedules," he said.
"The news that they will continue to face delays and a massive increase in cost for another eight weeks will, for many, prove to be unsustainable."
HGVs account for 32% of the weight the bridge normally carries despite making up approx 9% of overall traffic.
Splints continue to be installed at the other seven truss end links as a precautionary measure but officials said it could be safely completed with the bridge open.
Officials said a full inspection of the bridge was 90% complete "with no material defects detected".
Remaining inspections will continue until early January and can be safely completed with the bridge open.
Transport Minister Derek Mackay said: "I am pleased that we are now able to reopen the bridge to 90% of traffic, well ahead of schedule.
"Following rigorous testing and inspection of the temporary repair, experts have recommended the bridge is now ready to open to all traffic except HGVs.
"With the temporary solution now in place, the remaining work to install the long-term repair can safely proceed without the need for a full closure.
"The repairs will be carried out with overnight lane restrictions on the bridge.
"For the complex and detailed interim repair to have been completed in this timeframe is a tribute to the highly skilled and dedicated staff who have worked 24/7.
"Since the closure was put in place, weather conditions have been mainly favourable and the team have been able to complete the repair work in good time."
The minister praised transport operators for putting on extra services during the closure.
He added: "In fact, I am pleased to announce that ScotRail have decided to continue the additional 05:52 Fife train given the popularity of the service, for as long as demand is evident."
Chartered Engineer Mark Arndt, Amey's account director responsible for the bridge, said: "Better than expected weather conditions and round the clock work by our teams allowed us to progress with the detailed inspection, scaffolding construction and actual repairs quicker than originally anticipated.
"While we are pleased to have finished ahead of schedule for non-HGV traffic to use the bridge, we are very aware of the on-going inconvenience for HGVs not having access."
"Public safety has been at the heart of everything we've been doing and work will be progressing over the coming weeks on the additional strengthening works required to enable HGVs to start safely using the bridge."
Supt Fraser Candlish, of Police Scotland, said: "Keeping traffic moving safely in the East of Scotland and minimising disruption to road users continues to be our priority, along with our traffic management partners.
"We are supporting getting the key route open again as many thousands of people head on their Christmas and New Year journeys.
"To ensure the bridge opens to all other traffic, we will be enforcing the closure to HGVs. Officers will be on patrol on both sides of the Forth, maintaining a visible presence and stopping heavy goods vehicles on the approach.
"There will also be enforcement through static and mobile cameras."
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