A row has broken out over a five-month delay to the opening of the new Forth Crossing, which contractors have blamed on ‘ongoing effects of weather’.
The Scottish Government announced this week that Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC), the consortium building the Queensferry Crossing, ‘now expects to open the bridge by May 2017’, instead of December this year, as previously announced.
The delay has caused consternation among local politicians, in part as it was caused by just 25 days lost to weather in April and May.
A Liberal Democrat member of the Scottish Parliament has also accused first minister Nicola Sturgeon of concealing knowledge of the delay until after last month's elections on 5 May, claiming that it was ‘an open secret in my constituency that the delay was inevitable’.
An artist's impression of the new bridge
At first minister's questions this week, Alex Cole-Hamilton, MSP for Edinburgh Western, said: ‘Many people will find it hard to understand why 25 days lost to adverse weather can lead to a five-month delay in opening the crossing.’
Ms Sturgeon said ministers were informed on 26 May that FCBC ‘was examining weather impacts’. She added that the FCBC board ratified a revised programme on 1 June. Since then ‘ministers have been making sure that Transport Scotland subjected that revised programme to rigorous scrutiny,' she said.
She added: ‘The constructors now believe that deck installation will take two to three months longer than originally expected. That creates a knock-on effect for subsequent activities such as road surfacing and the installation of wind barriers, which will now take place in the winter months.’
Ms Sturgeon insisted that the crossing ‘will not be late’, pointing out that the contractual completion date is June 2017.
Transport Scotland said that since September 2015 the downtime due to adverse weather, specifically wind, has been 40% compared to the 25% anticipated by the contractor.
It said until May ‘FCBC believed that they could mitigate these effects - however, the impact of the weather in April and May with 13 days and 12 days lost to weather was such that they have advised that they can no longer deliver the December 2016 target’.
The Queensferry Crossing is intended to replace the existing Forth Road Bridge (FRB) as the main road link across the Forth Estuary.
In March, Keith Brown then Scotland’s cabinet secretary for infrastructure, said the Queensferry Crossing project ‘remains on schedule to have traffic on the bridge this December’.
The FCBC consortium comprises Hochtief, Dragados, American Bridge International and Morrison Construction.