The Forth Road Bridge will fully re-open tomorrow (20 February) morning, Scottish transport minister Derek Mackay has confirmed.
Transport Scotland said repairs to the damaged main span truss end links are ‘in the final stages’ and will be completed to allow the bridge to be re-opened to heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) on Saturday.
The bridge was closed to all traffic in early December but after initial repairs re-opened to all vehicles except HGVs two days before Christmas.
At that time, bridge operators Amey announced that a second phase of repairs should allow HGVs to return ‘in mid-February’ but earlier this month it was announced that bad weather had delayed completion of these repairs until mid-March.
Transport Scotland has now said that better weather has allowed engineers to complete these works ‘ahead of programme’. It said the construction phase was also re-engineered to allow most steelwork fabrication to be done in workshop conditions, reducing the impact of the weather.
Amey installed ‘sophisticated devices’ on the bridge, including strain gauges, to monitor loading. These will remain in place.
Transport Scotland has told Transport Network that once the second phase repairs are complete, the focus will be on a permanent replacement of all of the truss end links.
A spokesperson said: ‘It is expected this work will start later this year. The funding will come from the Scottish Government through Transport Scotland’s annual management and maintenance programme.’
Over the past two weeks there has been a phased reintroduction of HGVs with a limited number of northbound vehicles allowed to use the bridge at night. But hauliers have called for compensation for losses.
Mr Mackay said Amey have taken the opportunity to give the Forth Road Bridge a full structural health check and undertaken routine maintenance, which will lessen the need for further closures.
He said: ‘It is great see the Forth Road Bridge fully re-opening this weekend. The immediate repair work is in the final stage and no further structural defects have been identified during painstaking investigations by engineers.
‘I know that this is something that will be welcomed by the tens of thousands of drivers who use the bridge on a daily basis, especially the heavy goods vehicle drivers who have had to observe restricted crossing times in the past few weeks.
'I would like to thank them for their patience during this time and stress again that safety and the long-term integrity of the bridge had to be our main considerations. We did all we could to assist the HGV community on an operational level and they have shown great forbearance.
‘Tribute should be paid to the engineering team that has been relentless in its commitment to getting this structure re-opened.'
Mark Arndt, Amey’s account director for the bridge said: ‘Getting to this stage is the result of months of hard work from our team and partners and we’re hugely appreciative of the dedication shown by everyone involved during, what has been, a very challenging time.
‘The finish line is now in sight and by Saturday, we’ll have completed all the necessary repairs to safely reopen both the north and south bound carriageway to all traffic.’