The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says the early reopening of the Forth Road Bridge to HGVs is good news for freight operators, but the financial impact of the lengthy closure must not be forgotten.
The 51-year-old bridge, which carries more than 70,000 vehicles a day, closed to all traffic on 3 December after engineers found a crack in the steelwork. Re-opening to HGVs weighing more than 7.5 tonnes has twice been delayed while strengthening work is carried out, with full opening re-scheduled for mid-March.
Transport Scotland announced that work had been completed and all traffic would be able to use the bridge from now on. Chris MacRae, The FTA’s Head of Policy for Scotland, said: “While this is fantastic news for freight operators, we must not forget that the closure caused severe disruption at the worst possible time of year. The financial impact for some operators was devastating.
“Ironically, they will now have been scheduling work in anticipation of the bridge reopening in mid-March and will have to change their plans again with financial consequences.”
The FTA maintained a dialogue with the Scottish Government throughout the closure and was asked to provide feedback from its members. One parcel operator reported additional costs of £11,000 a week for fuel and drivers due to the 50-mile detour made necessary by the closure. Drivers’ hours rules were relaxed three times to compensate for the additional journey times.
Mr MacRae said: “Lessons must be learned about the importance of maintaining critical national infrastructure like the Forth Road Bridge. We mustn’t get into a situation like this again.”