The Forth Road Bridge is shut until the New Year for repairs following the discovery of defective steelwork in the last few weeks.
The decision to close the iconic bridge was taken by the Scottish Government Resilience Committee (SGoRR), chaired by the First Minister, after inspections carried out by specialist engineers and following advice and assessment of the fault by independent experts.
Transport Minister Derek Mackay said the decision to close the Forth Road Bridge "is not taken lightly".
“Every effort is being made to open the bridge as quickly as possible but safety is the main priority, however these works are weather dependent given the height and location of the bridge. We are aware of the potential economic impact, for strategic traffic in the east of Scotland and on people living in local communities," said Mackay.
Chartered Engineer Mark Arndt, Amey's Account Director responsible for the bridge said they faced “a complex engineering challenge". A 20mm-wide crack in a truss under the bridge deck was discovered since the last inspection of the bridge in May.
"The component failure is in a difficult to access location and our response is also highly dependent on weather conditions," said Amey.
“We continue to work around the clock on inspections, assessments and calculations along with the development of designs to effect the necessary repairs, while at the same time mobilising all the resources required to reopen the bridge as soon as is possible.”
One option considered was running traffic on the bridge while repair work was in progress. However, even with a restriction in place on HGVs using the bridge, continual running of traffic over the bridge would increase the risk of causing extensive secondary damage to the structure.
“This is an unprecedented challenge in the maintenance of the Forth Road Bridge. On balance following advice from engineers and independent experts, the full closure is essential for the safety of the travelling public and to prevent further damage to the structure of the bridge," said Minister Mackay.
“We are taking every step we can to lessen the impact of this closure. Action now, will mean that any closure is much shorter than it might be if we waited. We continue to work closely with all partners to co-ordinate our efforts to lessen the impact of this closure. Additional bus and rail services are being provided between Fife and Edinburgh. Every effort and resource available is being deployed to repair the damage to the Forth Road Bridge and minimise the disruption to the public.”
SGoRR will continue to meet over the weekend and further updates will be provided and a dedicated webpage for travel information will be created.
Emergency vehicles will still be able to use the bridge in bluelight situations.
Traffic is expected to be allowed back on the bridge following repair work in January.