The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says the European Commission’s extension to the drivers’ hours relaxation in Scotland will help transport operators, but it is vital that the Forth Road Bridge reopens to HGVs as soon as possible.
The Department for Transport (DfT) last night announced that the EC had approved a further relaxation until 15 February to help logistics operators cope with the 50-mile detour caused by closure of the bridge to vehicles over 7.5 tonnes.
The bridge has been undergoing repairs to a crack in the steelwork since 3 December and was due to re-open to all vehicles on 4 January. Transport Scotland announced on 22 December that cars, buses and coaches could cross but HGVs and vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes would have to use an alternative route until permanent strengthening work was completed in mid-February.
FTA’s Director of Policy Karen Dee said: “The First Minister offered reassurance that the bridge would re-open to all vehicles on 4 January so the delay has been a devastating blow for FTA members. The additional costs incurred by the 50-mile diversion are significant, especially when contracts have already been signed and there is no opportunity to recoup the money.
“The extension of the drivers’ hours relaxation will help operators to manage their fleets while the diversion is in place, but the priority must be to get the bridge open to HGVs as soon as possible.”
FTA members have reported extra costs of thousands of pounds a day for the additional mileage and staff needed. One said: “If you consider that in recent days we have run between 20 and 40 vehicles a day, in rough terms it is costing us between two and four thousand pounds per day.”
A temporary steel splint has been installed on one truss and the bridge will be closed to heavy vehicles and abnormal loads until long-term repairs are completed, which Transport Scotland says should be mid-February provided weather conditions are favourable.