Future falling ice closures on Queensferry Crossing will be 'challenging' to prevent, says transport minister

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has hinted that experts may struggle to prevent falling ice from the Queensferry Crossing in future following last week’s closure.

He warned that future mitigation measures would be “complex and challenging” as he was grilled about the impact of the two-day shutdown last week. It came after falling ice damaged up to eight cars, causing a political backlash over the first closure since the GBP1.3 billion bridge opened in 2017. A five-point has been put in place to improve monitoring and information gathering and monitoring and ice sensors will be in place in the coming months, he confirmed.

But he admitted that ensuring a repeat of the problem – which would likely result in future closures – would be more difficult. “Mitigation measures could be more complex, given this is something that only occurs in very specific circumstances,” he said. “So, for example, there was no problem on the Queensferry crossing during the `Beast from the East’ with snow or ice accumulation on the bridge.

“There have been no problems when there have been other periods of adverse weather. It appears to be in very specific circumstances that this problem has occurred and this will make it more challenging in looking to try find a means by which to mitigate it. “However that’s part of the work that will be carried forward by the engineers in the weeks and months ahead.”

At least three car windscreens were smashed by falling ice and snow last Monday evening which brought about the closure. It did not reopen until Wednesday morning. “Initial learning from the event on February 10 has resulted in a five-point plan being put in place to further enhance monitoring and gather increased intelligence from the observations,” the cabinet secretary added.

“Visual monitoring remains the primary source of understanding the effects of these conditions and this will be assisted by the installation of ice sensors in the coming months.”

Mr Matheson said the option of using the Forth Road Bridge in the event of another closure – which was set aside as a public transport corridor after the opening of the crossing – is being explored.

He said: “One of the actions I’ve asked my officials to look at in the future is that, given there was major refurbishment work taking place on the Forth Road crossing, is that in future winter periods we look to minimise the works that may be being carried out so it could be used as a diversion route – which would reduce the need for an extended diversion route through places like Kincardine.”

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