Engineers work round clock to repair Forth Road Bridge

Engineers working to repair the Forth Bridge
Engineers working to repair the Forth Bridge

Engineers are continuing to work round the clock to repair the Forth Road Bridge and get it open for the New Year.

They are facing challenging conditions as wintry storms take hold - and the weather may yet impact on their schedule.

The work continues as politicians press for an inquiry and look for answers after the unprecedented closure decision was made, sparking chaos on our roads and engulfing the rail network between Fife and the capital.

One week on and commuters still face lengthy tailbacks at peak times, and significantly longer journeys as they follow the travel plan to the Kincardine Bridge - in the case of folk from central Fife that means a journey up the M90 to Kelty and along the B road before arriving at the bridge where they join traffic from the other routes which have been reserved for HGVs and buses.

Since the closure, Amey’s team of engineers have been working 24/7 to develop a solution to a crack on one of the truss end links.

The detailed plans have now been finalised, checked and verified by two independent specialist engineering firms.

The repair solution involves a plate welded repair to the damaged truss end link and jacking the link into position.

An access platform to allow repair works to get underway is being constructed. It will allow teams of welders to work day and night, when weather conditions permit.

Chartered Engineer Mark Arndt, Amey’s account director responsible for the bridge said: “We’ve mobilised all the resources we need to begin the repair works.

“Progress is vulnerable to weather conditions. Wind speeds at times make it unsafe for our people to continue but by having our personnel on standby at the bridge and by monitoring live wind-speed data in our control room we’re able to get straight back out to work on the repairs in every available window and our programme remains on schedule for completion in the New Year.”

Amey is also taking preventative action on another seven similar locations on the bridge to prevent any issues from occurring and structural monitoring systems are also being installed at these locations.

Transport Minister, Derek Mackay said: “Our priority is to get the Forth Road Bridge operating as soon as possible and our engineers are doing all they can to make that possible.

“They are working tirelessly on designs for the repair and are putting the equipment they need in place so that it can be completed in good time.

“It is difficult and technical work and the team is to be commended on its commitment to getting the job completed despite the weather conditions.”

Meanwhile Fife MSP, Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has pressed the First Minister on whether any changes will be made to the future inspection and inspection regimes.

Mr Rennie emphasised that while a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of past decisions must take place, future regimes must be improved to stop such a closure from happening again.

Questioning the First Minister today Mr Rennie asked: “Today what people care about most is sorting the travel arrangements, fixing the bridge and the Scottish Government preventing another closure. The bridge is struggling to cope. So what has the First Minister changed this week to minimise the chance of another major failure on the Forth Road Bridge?”

Speaking following his questioning, Mr Rennie said: “I received very little in terms of substance in the First Minister’s response. It is absolutely right that the Infrastructure Committee consider the options for a full inquiry into why the Forth Road Bridge has had to close. But we cannot just focus on the past. The Scottish Government must look forward.

“The First Minister can’t be content to carry on as before. The old regime did not predict this major failure so I would have thought the government should respond with a new and improved inspection and maintenance regime which could thwart future closures.

“The First Minister says she wants to minimise inconvenience for users of the bridge. This certainly is the key priority at the moment. But by implementing an improved inspection and maintenance regime, which today she refused to say she’s doing, she will ensure future inconvenience is reduced as well.”