Murdo Fraser MSP writes how he was told in October that ice sensors were to be installed on the Queensferry Crossing to enable drivers to be warned of the risks but says it is not clear whether this work has been done.
In what can only now be seen as a masterclass in hubris, Scottish Government officials declared back in 2017 that they were optimistic that the new Queensferry Crossing “would never have to close”.
That certainly came as news to bridge users on Monday night, when no fewer than eight drivers reported damage to their vehicles caused by sheets of ice falling from the cable stays. The closure of the Queensferry Crossing that night and into yesterday not only caused severe disruption to constituents of mine from Fife trying to get to work in Edinburgh and the Lothians, and those going in the opposite direction, but also added substantial costs to businesses throughout the east of Scotland making and awaiting deliveries, with drivers having to make substantial detours.
It is not as if the problem with ice building up on the cables came as any surprise. I raised this in the Scottish Parliament last autumn and was told by the Transport Minister Michael Matheson that the ice issues which developed last year were the result of “a very specific set of weather conditions”, and he went on to say that those conditions “are very rare in the Forth Estuary”. Yet here we are, another winter, and the bridge is closed again.
I was told in October that ice sensors would be installed on the bridge to alert engineers to the hazard of ice building up on the cables, and it is not clear whether this work has actually been done. At least that way drivers could be warned of the risks, because as it stands a serious accident could well be caused by ice falls.
Better still would be to find a long-term solution to the problem, looking at what has been done elsewhere in the world with, for example, heated wires being installed along the cables to prevent ice build-up.
We cannot afford to see a repeat on a regular basis of the serious disruption and chaos for commuters and businesses that we have seen over the past 24 hours. This is an issue that should have been dealt with before now, and the Scottish Government need to get it sorted.
The only consolation in this whole sorry saga is that we didn’t decide to replace the bridge with two new ferries.
Murdo Fraser is a Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife