Scotland business

Business groups warn of 'huge costs' over bridge closure

Forth Road Bridge

Scottish business organisations have warned that the closure of the Forth Road Bridge until the new year could have a major economic impact.

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.

It called for action to mitigate at least some of the disruption.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) also warned that "employers of all description" faced serious disruption.

Earlier, Transport Minister Derek Mackay said it would take at least three weeks to repair the bridge.

It was closed at midnight, following the discovery of structural faults earlier in the week.

Mr Mackay said a full travel plan was being prepared, including extra trains and buses and possibly a ferry.

Early on Friday morning, 11-mile tailbacks were reported approaching the Kincardine Bridge, the alternative route across the Forth from Fife to Edinburgh.

'Bearing the brunt'

Martin Reid, from the Road Haulage Association in Scotland, said: "Our members are bearing the brunt of this - there is no doubt about that.

"Every time there is the smallest delay then there is a cost attached to that, and the cost must go to the client or to the haulier. At the minute, with all the delays, there is massive cost attached to this."

Image caption The Forth Road Bridge was closed at midnight, following the discovery of structural faults

Amazon which has it biggest UK "fufilment centre" in Dunfermline said it was confident the bridge closure would not affect deliveries.

The firm said in a statement: "Amazon has a network of ten fulfilment centres in the UK and each of these serve customers across the country.

"We are used to dealing with transport disruptions and put in place contingency measures to ensure we continue to provide the highest levels of service to our customers."

Garry Clark, from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "The closure of the Forth Road Bridge until the New Year and the resultant impact we are witnessing serves to underline the fragility of Scotland's transport network.

"Scotland's bridges are major infrastructure pinch points and whenever these are disrupted due to engineering or road works, the result is often severe.

"This is as true for the likes of the Erskine or Kessock bridges as it is for the Forth Road Bridge.

"These events remind us just how essential the construction of the Queensferry Crossing is to provide resilience in cross-Forth travel.

"The priority now must be to implement a deliverable travel plan to mitigate at least some of the inevitable disruption that is now occurring.

"The cost to business will be huge in terms of higher transport costs, reduced productivity and restricted access to customers."

'Serious disruption'

The FSB said firms across Scotland and beyond would be "alarmed" to hear that the bridge would not reopen until 2016.

Scottish policy convener Andy Willox said: "Not only will this closure impact those that use the bridge to bring their goods or services to market, employers of all description will face serious disruption.

"Businesses will look forward to clear advice regards alternative routes.

"Further, communities and firms facing the worst disruption will look to local and national government to mitigate the impact of the measure.

"While matters of safety should override other concerns, every effort should be made to minimise the impact on the economy."

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