Weekend delays loom as bridge work begins
MOTORISTS are being warned to expect big delays this weekend as the Forth Road Bridge is reduced to one lane in each direction.
The closure is needed to allow an inspection of vital joints which allow the bridge to expand and contract, and have come to the end of their life span.
Engineers will report back to bosses at bridge operator Feta next month on whether work to replace the worn-out joints can be delayed until 2016, when a new bridge across the Forth is supposed to be in place.
It is possible that bridge bosses will need to carry out temporary safety measures on the joints to see them through until 2016, but this would not involve the same level of traffic disruption expected if the full joint replacement project gets under way later this year.
Delaying work until a new Forth bridge is built would save months of traffic disruption as well as shaving more than 6 million off the refurbishment bill. This is because there would be no need for the system of "mini-bridges" to lift traffic over the joints while maintenance work is carried out.
Feta chiefs today said a contraflow system would be in operation on the bridge from 7pm on Friday night until 6am on Monday morning, but urged drivers to look at public transport alternatives.
Motoring groups today said the work was necessary and could bring long-term benefits to all commuters.
Barry Colford, Feta's chief engineer and Bridgemaster, said: "We're going to be opening up a section of the joints so that we can carry out a detailed inspection.
"This will help to inform our decision on whether replacement can be safely delayed.
"Unfortunately, the necessary lane closures are likely to cause significant delays to traffic."
The expansion joint work was due to be carried out in two phases of ten weeks this autumn and spring, 2010.
The cost of the project has already more than doubled from the 5.9m originally anticipated for the project, with the mini-bridges element – designed to avoid round -the-clock lane closures – costing 6m alone.
Bruce Young, Lothian and Borders co-ordinator of the Association of British Drivers, said: "It is a really good time in that obviously traffic volumes are not incredibly high at this time of year.
"It is work that needs to be done so I think drivers will just need to grin and bear it.
"It is to see if this joints project can be delayed until the new bridge is open, so drivers would benefit from this long-term if it is possible."
NEW CROSSING 'CAN'T TAKE EXTRA TRAFFIC'
THE new Forth Road Bridge will not be able to cope with any extra traffic over its expected 120-year lifespan, transport chiefs admitted today.
Transport Scotland guidelines assume the number of cars crossing the new bridge will not increase, with the Scottish Government hoping instead to encourage commuters on to the existing bridge, to be reserved for public transport. The new bridge's design has been scaled back to save nearly 2 billion.
Iain Ferguson, of CBI Scotland, reportedly said: "Given the level of investment, a new crossing that did not accommodate future traffic levels would have to be viewed as a missed opportunity."
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South