Today’s announcement that the Forth Road Bridge won’t re-open to HGVs until mid-February is a devastating blow for the logistics industry, according to the Freight Transport Association FTA.
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 this morning that cars, buses and coaches can cross from 6am tomorrow but HGVs and vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes will have to use an alternative route until permanent strengthening work is completed.
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 this is a devastating blow for our 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.”
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.
FTA will make a case to the Department for Transport (DfT) for an extension to the relaxation of drivers’ hours, which ends on 6 January. It will also press for the HGV priority route to be maintained, despite an announcement that it will not continue.
Ms Dee said: “We need to ensure that everything possible is done to minimise further disruption for transport operators and, more importantly, get the bridge open at the earliest opportunity.”