Forth Road Bridge use for general traffic in emergencies to be investigated

(C) PAThe Queensferry Crossing empty after being closed.

Fife leaders have demanded action to ensure the region is not cut off again by a bridge closure. Council co-leader David Ross said the huge disruption caused by the 38-hour closure of the Queensferry Crossing has harmed Fife's economy. He and Fife Chamber of Commerce president Alan Mitchell said reopening the Forth Road Bridge to general traffic was necessary to maintain the crucial transport link.

On Monday evening the Queensferry Crossing was shut after eight vehicles were hit by ice falling from the cables. The span reopened at 10.45 after safety checks had been completed and after commuters had endured another miserable morning using diversions. Mr Ross said he was relieved the GBP1.3 billion crossing had reopened on Wednesday morning but urged Transport Minister Michael Matheson and the government to prevent more closures.

He said: "They need think about the future and make sure these things don't happen again. "The Forth Road Bridge should be an available alternative." Road works on the bridge, now a public transport corridor, prevented its use by general traffic this week but Mr Ross said there also appeared to be a reluctance to open it up.

He said: "The worry is that people living south of the river don't realise the crucial role that the Queensferry Crossing and the Forth Road Bridge play for not just Fife but the whole of the north-east of Scotland." Mr Mitchell said more frequent bridge closures could dent confidence in investing in the region and hoped the Forth Road Bridge would be opened to general traffic during any recurrence. He said: "That is the long term worry that people will lose confidence and this will change decisions about where they work and live.

"Hopefully that won't be the case and we can assume this won't happen on a regular basis." He said he had always assumed the Forth Road Bridge would be used for additional traffic when necessary and refusal to open it in future closures would attract "a lot of consternation". A Transport Scotland spokesman said use of the Forth Road Bridge in emergencies would be investigated.

He said: "The decision was taken to not reopen the Forth Road Bridge to general traffic given it is currently undergoing significant renovation work on the main expansion joints and has a contraflow in operation. "Opening the Forth Road Bridge up to general traffic is likely to have result in increased congestion for all vehicles and leave the crossing vulnerable to lengthy delays as a result of any accidents or breakdowns. "This would have a significant negative impact on journey times for public transport over the Forth.

"Following the recent closure of the Queensferry Crossing we will investigate the feasibility of reopening the Forth Road Bridge to general traffic under emergency circumstances once the remaining works are complete and the contraflow is removed."

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