Leaders: Bridge reopens questions that must be answered

FORTH Road crossing accessible to commuters once more but we still need to know where maintenance and management went wrong

Yesterdays announcement came with the news that heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) will not be allowed to travel over the bridge until mid-February. Picture: Scott Louden.

It is clearly very good news for motorists that the Forth Road Bridge is to reopen earlier than expected, relieving transport chaos for thousands of people who rely on the crossing on a daily basis.

The engineers have worked efficiently in sometimes tough weather conditions to allow the bridge to bear traffic again well ahead of the scheduled reopening on 4 January. But amid the relief for those who can now wave goodbye to massively extended commutes and overcrowded trains there is considerable gloom.

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The road haulage industry on whom we all rely, especially at this time of year, to ensure all the goodies that we demand from the high street stores are on the shelves are facing very bad news indeed.

Yesterday’s announcement came with the news that heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) will not be allowed to travel over the bridge until mid-February, more than a month later than initially expected.

It has been claimed that this delay will cost firms more than £40 million.

For some companies, who have already had to swallow extra costs in the region of £50,000, this is disastrous.

Businesses which were planning for a closure of a month are now facing double that and trying to figure out how they can carry on for the next six weeks. Some firms are even said to be considering switching depots.

There is a real risk that without some kind of support some of these firms will not survive until February. There is a strong case for their plight being considered sympathetically by finance secretary John Swinney when he addresses the issue of compensation.

There will be hopes that the relatively mild weather of recent weeks, which was key to the initial work being completed so promptly, continues over the next month and a half. The predictably unpredictable factor that is the Scottish weather now has a crucial role to play in the immediate future prospects of many firms.

The massive potential cost of the ongoing disruption to Scottish businesses only reinforces the importance of the inquiry into how the bridge came to have to be closed in the first place.

Those who have been hugely inconvenienced will quite reasonably want to know whether the worst of this disruption could have been avoided and if so, who was responsible for allowing the situation to deteriorate so badly.

Most importantly though, we need to know what lessons can be learned for the future. Something has clearly gone wrong in the maintenance and management of the bridge that allowed such significant structural problems as the cracks which caused the closure to go undetected for so long. Improving our inspection and maintenance regimes will be crucial not just to the future management of the Forth Road Bridge, but there may also be lessons which can be applied to other vital arteries, further along the Forth and elsewhere in Scotland.

Avoiding a repeat of such a disastrous situation is the most important thing now.

Turntables are not just for hipsters

News that the record player has become the Christmas “gift of the year” is not surprising to those who follow such trends as vinyl has been enjoying a gradual resurgence over the past few years.

What is cruious about the development is that, while turntables are flying off the shelves, no one is really sure exactly who it is that is buying them.

It is generally believed that vinyl is now the domain of the youthful hipster, with fashion stores such as Urban Outfitters enjoying strong sales of kitsch-designed record players.

However, vinyl sales suggest it may be the older consumer enjoying a nostalgic nod to their youth who are accountable for a large share of the sales. This week’s charts feature tracks from Queen, David Bowie and Bob Dylan, alongside more contemporary artists.

It is heart-warming - and not just to those who work in newspapers - to see that there is still a place in the modern world for non-digital products to flourish.

The popularity of record players is proof that for a significant number of consumers at least the quality of the experience a quality offers - and not just its convenience - is very important.

Pulling an album out of its sleeve, placing it on a turntable and waiting for the satisfying thud as needle meets record is a ritual far more enriching than pressing a button on your iphone. It shos a commitment to stopping and savouring the music, sitting and listening until the side has finished playing at least, rather than dashing around and doing something else at the same time.

It’s rather like laying out the weekend newspapers and savouring what you are about to read.