Forth Road Bridge defect “could not have been foreseen”

Jim Eadie MSP, committee convener, at the Forth Road Bridge.

Jim Eadie MSP, committee convener, at the Forth Road Bridge.

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A Scottish Parliament inquiry has concluded that the structural defects which led to the closure of the Forth Road Bridge last December could not have been predicted.

The Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee also found the decision by the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) to reprioritise projects within its capital plan following the Spending Review in 2011 – including work on the truss end link mechanism which failed – was an appropriate course of action.

credit steven scott taylor / J P License

credit steven scott taylor / J P License

Today’s report follows an inquiry called by the committee which heard from a range of witnesses in January and February.

Jim Eadie MSP, committee convener, said: “The closure of the Forth Road Bridge led to significant disruption and many legitimate questions have been raised about the nature of the structural problem and whether it could have been avoided.

“The committee heard from a number of structural engineers and representatives from FETA and Transport Scotland. All of our witnesses were of the view that the defect which caused the closure of the bridge could not have been foreseen.

“As a result we have concluded that the decision by FETA to reprioritise the proposed work on the truss end links was an appropriate course of action on the basis of both the prevailing financial circumstances and the engineering advice available at the time.”

He continued: “The committee concluded that the development of the Forth Replacement Crossing would have had an influence on decisions to reprioritise certain capital projects. The committee is of the view that FETA dealt with the challenge of reprioritising its capital proposals in a professional and responsible manner.

“We commend all those who worked so hard to repair the bridge and have it re-opened ahead of initial estimates. However we are also conscious that the impact on the travelling public and businesses – particularly the haulage industry – was significant.”

He added: “The committee therefore intends to recommend that its successor committee in the new Parliamentary session give consideration to exploring such issues further.”