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Opening of new bridge pushed back

Weather blamed for Queensferry Crossing delay

Artist's impression
Artist’s impression

The new Queensferry Crossing over the Forth will open five months later than planned, Economy Secretary Keith Brown admitted today.

Bad weather has been blamed for delaying work on the £1.35 billion bridge which will now be completed in May next year.

This means it will not meet the “target” date of December but will be within its contractual completion date.

Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC), the consortium building the bridge, said weather conditions were the cause of the hold up. However, critics said there was already a one-year weather contingency built into the timescale.

Mr Brown said the contractors is “unable to achieve the target opening date of December 2016 – which is six months ahead of the contractual completion date.

“The contractors remain on schedule to complete the project ahead of the contractual completion date. The contractors have taken additional steps to mitigate ongoing weather impacts and have provided a revised timetable for completion to Transport Scotland and Scottish ministers.”

Mr Brown (pictured below), confirming that any added cost will be borne by the consortium and not the taxpayer, added: “I have implemented enhanced governance procedures from Transport Scotland senior management and will receive twice weekly updates from the project team.

“We have always been ambitious about this project and have always worked towards a deliberately ambitious target. However, It is important to recognise that FCBC still fully expects the project to complete within the timeframe of their contract. This project is not late and there will be no impact on the public purse.

“The December 2016 target date was set to address concerns about the long term condition of the Forth Road bridge where it was originally believed that it would be restricted as early as 2017.”

Keith Brown 2Mr Brown’s statement came in a written reply to a Parliamentary question from Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser.

Mr Fraser said: “This is very disappointing news for people on both sides of the bridge. They were continually told by the Scottish Government that this project was ahead of schedule and would soon be up and running.

“Now we find this is not the case, so the SNP must now give an exact date when this will be completed by.

“We saw the sheer disruption caused to people and businesses when the existing Forth Road Bridge was closed over Christmas.

“It’s essential we know whether or not the patch-and-mend approach taken at that point will be enough to ensure it can cope until the Queensferry Crossing opens.”

Transport Scotland said in a statement: “Since September 2015 the downtime due to adverse weather, specifically wind, has been 40 per cent compared to the 25 per cent anticipated by the contractor. Until May, FCBC believed that they could mitigate these effects – however, the impact of the weather in April and May with 13 days and 12 days lost to weather was such that they have advised that they can no longer deliver the December 2016 target.

“Whilst FCBC have been able to mitigate the impacts of weather by increasing resources and running a number of activities in parallel they are now entering a stage of bridge construction which is technically very complex.

“In order to mitigate the on-going weather impacts that have arisen over the past few months FCBC has procured additional physical resource, increased staffing by taking on an additional 100 workers, increased working hours, altered construction methodologies where possible and challenged critical construction sequences to identify where any programme efficiencies could be found.

“They have now reached the stage where further additional resources will not bring the delivery date forward due to the complex technical nature of the construction work. In addition, the remaining construction activities can only be carried out sequentially, further limiting the ability to make further gains.

“Specifically the bridge deck and the cable installation process which began in September 2015 is particularly sensitive to wind and this increases as the cables used become longer and are installed at a greater height.

“FCBC have confirmed this creates an unavoidable knock-on effect for subsequent activities, road surfacing and wind barriers which will now take place in wet and cold conditions during autumn and winter 2016/2017.

“”his is a project with its own unique weather challenges and the contractor has incorporated their experience to date with weather in their planning process. As a result, they now expect to open the bridge by May 2017, ahead of the contractual completion date.”

 



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