Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Traffic returns to Forth Road Bridge

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Media captionThe first cars were allowed back onto the crossing at 05.20 - Kevin Keane reports

Traffic has returned to the Forth Road Bridge after the completion of temporary repairs.

The first cars were allowed back onto the crossing at 05:20 after engineers welded a splint onto damaged steelwork.

Heavy goods vehicles will remain banned until further work is carried out, with this scheduled for completion by "mid-February".

The bridge was closed to all traffic on 4 December after a crack was discovered in a truss under the carriageway.

Five heavy lorries have been turned away from the bridge since it reopened.

Bridge operating company Amey said vehicles weighing over seven and a half tonnes are prevented from using the bridge until permanent repairs to a cracked steel truss are made.

Freight traffic

Scottish Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown met the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association to discuss the problems being caused to operators by the ban on heavy lorries.

Mr Brown said: "Today's discussions with the freight trade associations were very constructive and we have agreed a five point plan to keep HGVs moving as works continue on the Forth Road Bridge.

"Both associations stressed the importance of the relaxation of drivers hours being extended to allow continued flexibility. I assured them that we are taking this forward with the UK Government and European Commission, based on evidence from the freight associations.

Director of the Road Haulage Association in Scotland Martin Reid said: "The RHA welcomes the ongoing dialogue with the minister and Transport Scotland as it is imperative that the interests of road hauliers are recognised, particularly while the essential maintenance is being undertaken at the Forth Road Bridge.

"It is absolutely essential for the Scottish economy that delivery routes are as free of congestion and hindrance as possible especially while hauliers are faced with additional costs due to the diversions in place."

The FTA's Head of Policy for Scotland Chris MacRae said: "The Freight Transport Association is grateful to Transport Scotland and the Scottish government for recognising the importance of keeping freight traffic moving at the busiest time of year for the industry.

"We will seek feedback from our members on how they are being affected by the extended closure of the bridge to goods vehicles in excess of 7.5 tonnes."

Disruption

In normal operation, the bridge handles 80,000 vehicles each day and closure had caused significant disruption.

Bridge operator, Amey, said: "Traffic has been running very well all day since the bridge reopened. There have been no queues and no delays."

The partial re-opening is ahead of schedule, with officials having previously estimated that the temporary repairs would not be completed until after the Christmas holidays.

Image copyright Traffic Scotland
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Heavy goods vehicles still face a long alternative route

Police officers were stationed at both ends of the bridge on Wednesday to redirect any vehicle over 7.5 tonnes.

A police spokesman said the continued ban on HGVs was being well adhered to. By midday five lorries had been turned away.

HGVs account for 32% of the weight the bridge normally carries despite making up approx 9% of overall traffic.

Scottish government transport minister Derek Mackay said the estimated reopening date for HGVs of mid-February "felt accurate" based on the work programme but it was weather dependent and assumed no further faults were found.

He told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I am very certain that we'll meet that date of mid-February for the bridge to be open to HGVs.

"Of course it's good news this morning that it's open to 90% of traffic and HGVs should follow early next year. Mid-February is as accurate a date I can give based on engineers' opinion at this time."

Mr Mackay said the revised date for full reopening was based on data gathered from load testing.

"We weren't satisfied with the results. That's why further strengthening works are required. It's partly a precautionary measure to give us absolute certainly that it's safe and effective to allow HGVs across from mid February."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Police were checking the weight of vehicles before letting them onto the bridge
Image caption The first cars were allowed back onto the bridge at 05:20 on Wednesday

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