The Queensferry Crossing is set to remain shut in both directions during peak hour on Tuesday morning due to the risk of falling ice and snow from bridge cables as the aftermath of Storm Ciara continues to cause traffic chaos.
The entire £1.35 billion bridge was due to be closed at least until manual inspections could be carried out today.
Motorists were warned to brace for major disruption, with a 34-mile diversion required for those travelling by car between Fife and Edinburgh.
Drivers travelling southbound have been advised to divert via the A985 to the Kincardine Bridge and the M9, and the reverse for northbound traffic.
At least eight drivers suffered damage to their vehicles from falling ice before the bridge’s southbound lanes were closed to all traffic at 5:35pm on Monday.
The northbound carriageway was later shut about 8:25pm.
Martin Aitchison, a 51-year-old joiner from South Queensferry, told how a lump of falling ice smashed his windscreen as he travelled across the Queensferry Crossing yesterday evening.
He was driving across the bridge on his way home from work at about 4:35pm when he said he got a “fright” as ice “banged” down on to his Vauxhall work van, damaging the corner of the windscreen.
“I was going southbound when there was a huge bang and the windscreen has blown,” he said. “I drove on another 200-300 yards and stopped just behind an Amey truck. The guy who was there started pointing up at the bridge.”
Mark Arndt, account director for operating company Amey, said no injuries had been reported.
“We appreciate this closure will create disruption for drivers,” he said. “However, we are asking drivers to use an alternative mode or route for their safety due to the continued weather conditions. We will assess conditions and open the bridge at the earliest opportunity once it is safe to do so.” Project officials said in 2017 they were “optimistic” the 3.5m-high wind shields fitted to the Queensferry Crossing would mean the 1.7-mile structure would never have to close.
Last year the Scottish Government pledged to fit sensors to alert engineers to ice build-up after incidents in March in which three car windscreens were smashed.
Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP Miles Briggs last night said: “The build-up of ice and the risk to motorists using the bridge is a hazard that should have been considered before the bridge was opened to traffic. We are now seeing the consequences of this.
“It is just lucky that we have seen a mild winter to date. However, it is vital we see a long-term solution to the problem developed. Solid blocks of ice falling on motorists’ cars is hugely dangerous.”
The Met Office has meanwhile extended a series of weather warnings, with snowfall set to continue falling across Scotland until tomorrow afternoon. Severe wintry weather caused extensive disruption across the country’s transport network yesterday, with one woman seriously injured following a crash as blizzard conditions made driving conditions treacherous across many key routes.
A mountain rescue team were out in force near the summit of Ben Nevis in “horrendous” conditions after four people got into difficulty.
Forecasters said further snow showers and icy stretches were expected until midday tomorrow, leading to further possible disruption.
With temperatures plummeting after Storm Ciara battered parts of the country, further fresh snow was expected to gather last night, with drifting on some high level routes. Westerly gales are set to bring further snow and sleet showers today.
The areas expected to be worst affected will be in the north and west of the country, including the Central Belt.
A yellow ‘be aware’ warning for heavy snow and strong winds is in place for all of today, with a separate yellow warning for snow and ice in place until tomorrow.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency had 15 flood alerts and 23 flood warnings in place as of yesterday evening.
With some of the heaviest snowfall in the Highlands, Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team said it had found three of four people in difficulty near the summit of Britain’s highest mountain. Efforts were being made to locate the remaining individual, with high winds and blizzards resulting in a wind chill of about -20C.
The 22-strong rescue team said the group had encountered difficulty on steep ground. Inverness Coastguard search and rescue helicopter was assisting the operation, but said it was “limited by the weather”. The wintry conditions caused extensive disruption elsewhere yesterday. One woman was seriously injured in a collision between a lorry and two cars on the M74,
Police said her conditions were not life threatening. The motorway was closed northbound between junction seven, Larkhall, and junction eight, Kilmarnock. The Dornoch bridge was closed to high-sided vehicles.
On the trains, flooding at Caldew Viaduct in Carlisle meant a bus replacement service was in place between services from Glasgow and Edinburgh to the Cumbria city. Transpennine Express advised people not to use its cross-border service due to flooding.
Services between Kilmarnock and Dumfries were also cancelled due to a land slip.
The West Highland Line and Inverness to Kyle line were both closed, but reopened by the afternoon.
Caledonian MacBrayne cancelled 15 of its crossings, including its three Mallaig services. Highland Council closed six primary schools and three nurseries due to the poor weather, or problems with heating and water as a result of the wintry squalls. Police in England confirmed the death of a male driver after a tree fell on to his car in Hampshire on Sunday afternoon.
• For the latest information commuters should visit my.trafficscotland.org