The defect that caused the closure of the Forth Road Bridge in early December could not have been foreseen, a Scottish parliamentary committee has said.
But MSPs found that a decision by the bridge’s previous operator to defer work that could have prevented the closure ‘was a direct consequence of a decision by the Scottish Government/Transport Scotland to reduce its capital grant allocation for the period 2012/13 to 2014/15.’
The Forth Road Bridge
The majority of the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee concluded that the decision by the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) to defer work on truss end links, one of which subsequently failed, was ‘an appropriate course of action on the basis of both the prevailing financial circumstances and the engineering advice available at the time’.
One Labour member of the committee dissented from this conclusion.
The committee said FETA had dealt with the challenge of reprioritising capital proposals in a professional and responsible manner.
The majority of the committee found that had FETA felt it was necessary to accelerate work on the truss end links to address a matter of public safety, it could have gone back to Transport Scotland to make a case for additional funding.
They expressed confidence that FETA engineers would have done this if they had felt the work to be necessary from a public safety perspective.
Although it heard evidence that such work would have prevented the subsequent defect to the truss end link, the committee said it agreed with the unanimous views of witnesses that the defect could not have been foreseen.
MSPs commended all Transport Scotland, Amey and engineering consultant staff who were involved both in responding to and resolving the defect and carrying out associated repair work.
They described this as ‘a remarkable engineering achievement, carried out during a period of adverse weather conditions’.
The bridge was re-opened to all traffic except HGVs before Christmas and was fully re-opened last month.
Scottish Government transport minister Derek Mackay said: ‘We welcome many aspects of the ICI Committee’s report and will now carefully consider the conclusions and report back to Parliament later this year.
‘We particularly agree with the finding that the defect, which led to the bridge being closed, has been recognised as “unforeseen”. It is clear the decision to close the Bridge was the right thing to do and the efforts in getting the bridge fully quickly reopened were a “remarkable engineering achievement” given the challenging conditions.’