Forth Road Bridge to fully reopen on Saturday
The Forth Road Bridge is to fully reopen on Saturday.
The bridge was closed to all traffic on 4 December after a crack was discovered in a truss under the carriageway. The bridge then reopened to all vehicles except HGVs on 23 December.
Transport Minister Derek Mackay said final repairs would be completed in time to allow HGVs over the bridge from 23:00 on Saturday.
It follows a phased reintroduction of HGVs at night over the past two weeks.
It was thought the bridge would fully reopen in mid-February but then officials said it would be mid-March.
However, officials said "favourable" weather conditions since the storms in January meant the team was able to complete the works early.
They also re-engineered the construction phase to allow the majority of steelwork to be done in workshops, reducing the impact of the weather.
Mr Mackay said: "The immediate repair work is in the final stage and no further structural defects have been identified during painstaking investigations by engineers.
"I know that this is something that will be welcomed by the tens of thousands of drivers who use the bridge on a daily basis, especially the heavy goods vehicle drivers who have had to observe restricted crossing times in the past few weeks.
"I would like to thank them for their patience during this time and stress again that safety and the long-term integrity of the bridge had to be our main considerations.
"We did all we could to assist the HGV community on an operational level and they have shown great forbearance."
The minister said tributes had to be paid to the engineering team that had been "relentless in its commitment" to getting the bridge reopened.
He said the team had worked "tirelessly" throughout despite "very challenging weather conditions", employing innovative approaches to the repairs and putting in place very effective solutions to complex problems.
Mr Mackay said a new state-of-the-art structural monitoring system installed at the bridge for the first time during the works would remain.
The specialist system monitors the strain from wind, traffic and the weight of the bridge.
'Finish in sight'
Bridge operator Amey has also taken the opportunity to give the bridge "a full structural a health check" and undertaken routine maintenance, lessening the need for further closures.
Mark Arndt, Amey's account director for the Forth Road Bridge, said: "Getting to this stage is the result of months of hard work from our team and partners and we're hugely appreciative of the dedication shown by everyone involved during, what has been, a very challenging time.
"The finish line is now in sight and by Saturday, we'll have completed all the necessary repairs to safely reopen both the north and south bound carriageway to all traffic."
Fife Council leader David Ross said: "This is great news for Fife. It will be a huge relief to travellers and businesses on both sides of the Forth, particularly HGV drivers who have had to put up with long detours to reach their destinations.
"I'd like to add my thanks to all those who have been working so hard to get the bridge open again.
"This news will also be welcomed by those towns and villages in West Fife that have had large vehicles trundling down their streets for many months while bridge repairs have been under way."
However, he added: "While I'm extremely grateful to those who have worked so hard to get the bridge re-opened, there are questions that have to be answered as to why we got into this situation in the first place and what contingency plans there were in place.
"These issues have to be fully investigated and dealt with by the Scottish Parliament inquiry. I look forward to hearing its findings."