Repair bill for bridge doubles up to £13.7m
THE cost of major repairs planned for the Forth Road Bridge next year has more than doubled, transport chiefs revealed today.
Joints, which allow the bridge to expand and contract, need replacing because they have come to the end of their life span.
Bridge bosses will build temporary ramps – dubbed "mini-bridges" – over all the structure's joints to allow traffic to travel over them and avoid round-the-clock lane closures when the project gets under way next autumn.
But the 13.7 million winning tender for the work is up on the 5.9m cost originally anticipated for the project and bridge operator Feta is now facing a 5m shortfall, and will lobby the Scottish Government for the extra cash despite having 2.9m in its own reserves.
The "mini-bridges" element accounts for just under half of the overall cost and Feta today said the specialist nature of the job had increased the costs.
Des McNulty MSP, Labour's transport spokesman, said: "This is the first of a number of problems that Feta will have, following on from the decision to remove tolls, that it can't address through its own tolling revenue or money borrowed against future revenue.
"We now have a situation where any unanticipated maintenance work can only be done after Feta has gone cap in hand to the Government, and the real concern will come if there is an urgent piece of work which is outwith the Feta budget, but they have to wait on the Government."
The expansion joint project was last year estimated at 5.9m but, by June this year, officials preparing tenders for the project revised that to 8.7m to allow for the increasing cost of steel and labour.
The winning tender from Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering was actually 1.3m more than the bid from English firm C Spencer Ltd, but bridge bosses went with them as they came out on top for quality during its assessments.
Barry Colford, the Forth Road Bridge's chief engineer, said: "We engaged an experienced firm of consulting engineers to estimate the cost of this job, but the disparity between their estimate and the actual bids demonstrates just how unpredictable the costs of carrying out maintenance works on large bridges without major disruption to traffic can be.
"This job in particular is unique, so there's very little to compare it to. The joints we're replacing are the oldest and largest of their kind in Europe and, to keep the traffic flowing during the works, we've come up with an engineering solution that is a first for a major suspension bridge."
The work is due to be carried out in two phases of ten weeks in autumn 2009 and spring 2010.
This means that two lanes in each direction would remain open throughout most of the works.
However, four-day carriageway closures would still be required in order to construct and dismantle the temporary bridges at the start and finish of each phase. Only one lane would be open in each direction during these periods.
Councillor Tony Martin, convener of Feta, said: "It's essential that we find a way to deliver this maintenance project as planned.
"Our engineers have come up with a genuinely creative and innovative solution to keep the traffic flowing, and the work is vital in order to keep the bridge safe and open to traffic."
Inspection discovers cracks in crucial nuts
ENGINEERS are investigating after cracks were found in the heavy duty nuts used to secure the steel ropes which hold up the Forth Road Bridge.
Nine out of a total of 1888 of the nuts – which are 35mm in diameter – were found to be cracked during a routine inspection and have been sent for tests.
Four nuts have already been replaced and the other five will be replaced during the coming year using access platforms in place as part of ongoing work on the main cables.
Consulting engineers FaberMaunsell have been appointed to investigate the cause of the cracking but bridge chiefs have said the bridge remains safe.
Barry Colford, chief engineer and bridge master at the Forth Road Bridge, said: "These bolt assemblies are inspected as part of the bridge's programme of routine maintenance and inspection. Thanks to the vigilance of our inspection team the problem has been identified at an early stage and we're already taking steps to replace the damaged nuts and investigate whether any further action is required.
"The bridge remains perfectly safe."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West