Scotland politics

'Focused' inquiry to be held into Forth Road Bridge closure

Forth Road Bridge Image copyright PA
Image caption The bridge is expected to be closed to all traffic for at least three weeks

A Holyrood committee has agreed to hold a "focused" inquiry into the closure of the Forth Road Bridge.

The infrastructure and capital investment committee agreed that the core focus of the probe should be the structural defect behind the closure.

An independent technical adviser will be taken on as part of the inquiry, which will begin next month.

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

Engineers hope to have it repaired and open to traffic again by 4 January.

The inquiry will begin after that, with MSPs agreeing that the "immediate" priority should be on getting the bridge reopened.

Committee members agreed that the inquiry should be focused primarily on the structural defect, and that the clerk should approach an independent technical adviser to take part.

The inquiry aims to call officials from bridge operator Amey, its predecessor the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, Transport Scotland staff and the transport secretary Derek Mackay.

Image copyright Amey
Image caption A temporary fix will involve the truss end having metal splints attached to either side

Committee convener Jim Eadie said: "While we welcome the government's announcement that the bridge is expected to reopen early in the new year, legitimate questions have been raised about why the bridge had to be closed and whether the structural problems identified could have been avoided or dealt with differently.

"The committee has agreed that these questions should be addressed in a focused, timely and transparent manner."

'Decisive action'

Labour and the Scottish government have repeatedly clashed over the closure, with opposition members accusing Mr Mackay of "misleading parliament" over bridge maintenance.

The Scottish Conservatives are also calling for an independent inquiry into the matter.

Mr Mackay, who was praised at the committee for his transparency over the matter, welcomed the inquiry.

He said: "Once the bridge has reopened, I look forward to participating.

"I am confident that when the engineers - including those with 30 years experience of working on the bridge and the independent experts - get the chance to provide evidence to the committee, including the unpredictable nature of the fault, then people will see that the Scottish government and Transport Scotland have taken a difficult but decisive action and have behaved in a responsible manner."

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