Phased reintroduction of HGV crossings over the Forth Road Bridge will begin tonight (Thursday).
The bridge was closed from December 4, 2015, to all traffic after a structural fault was discovered. Due to re-open on January 4, works were completed ahead of time and the bridge re-opened to all traffic, apart from HGVs, from December 22.
Now, structural monitoring installed at the truss end links of the structure show the bridge can now allow a limited number of HGVs to cross – up to around 600 northbound between 11 pm and 4 am nightly, if weather allows.
Traffic signals will release HGVs on to the bridge at a rate of one every 30 seconds. The release rate has been calculated by engineers as the optimum rate to maximise the number of vehicles able to cross whilst minimising the impact on the structure.
Transport Minister Derek Mackay said: “This is a phased reintroduction of HGVs to the Forth Road Bridge which aims to provide access to the bridge at the earliest available opportunity. Allowing limited access to the bridge when traffic is lighter will hopefully provide some relief to local hauliers while repair work continues.
“90 per cent of traffic returned to the Forth Road Bridge in December and while we recognise that around 600 HGVs crossing the bridge each night does not get us to 100 per cent, it is a step in the right direction – with full reopening expected in mid-March. We will of course continue to explore every option to see if we can increase access as the trial develops.
“The information from the monitoring equipment is providing a detailed picture of how the bridge is behaving to inform our decision making and modelling. We will not take any decision which could risk damaging the bridge or compromising safety, so we have taken the decision to push back the reopening of the bridge to HGVs to allow time for phase two of the repair work to be complete, with additional time added as contingency due to the effects of the weather.
The RHA welcomed the news, but chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Since the closure of this vital crossing on 4 December 2015, the financial impact on the thousands of hauliers who are either based in, or making regular journeys to Scotland has been massive.
"The Scottish government must find the funds to compensate those operators who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves out of pocket for several months."