Forth Road Bridge Closed Until New Year
4 December 2015, 12:33
The Forth Road Bridge is to remain shut until the new year after faults were discovered in its steel work.
The decision to close the bridge was taken by the Scottish Government after inspections carried out by specialist engineers and following advice and assessment of the fault by independent experts.
Work is already under way to repair the crossing and it is expected to be reopened to traffic in January.
The complete closure of the bridge came into force at midnight, with major tailbacks experienced on diversion routes at rush hour.
Mr MacKay said the decision was 'not taken lightly', and steps are being taken to lessen the impact of the closure.
The closure of the Forth Road Bridge will hit commuters, residents and businesses on both sides of the crossing.
The Federation of Small Businesses said firms will be 'alarmed' at the news and it called on the Scottish Government to mitigate the impact on local communities.
Scottish policy convener Andy Willox says 'Not only will this closure impact those that use the bridge to bring their goods or services to market, employers of all description will face serious disruption.
'Businesses will look forward to clear advice regards alternative routes. Further, communities and firms facing the worst disruption will look to local and national government to mitigate the impact of the measure.
'While matters of safety should override other concerns, every effort should be made to minimise the impact on the economy.'
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and Fife MSP Willie Rennie called on Transport Scotland to publish its contingency plan and its bridge inspection regime following the closure.
He said: 'People living in Edinburgh and Fife now face the prospect of weeks of disruption. This is the last thing that we needed to see in the run in to Christmas. Safety must come first, but this extended closure will cause huge inconvenience and impact on families and businesses alike.
'We must assume that Transport Scotland had a detailed plan for when the bridge would close for extended periods of time. This would cover issues like additional train carriages, diversion routes, communication with the public and so on.
'Considering the length of this closure I think it is only right that users of the bridge are able to examine the plan. That's why I am calling for it to be published today.
'We also need to know how we have ended up in a situation where we have been forced to close the bridge for weeks on end while extensive repairs are carried out.
'I do not doubt the commitment and skill of the engineers working on the bridge but if things were missed, we need to know about it. This starts with the publication of the inspection regime.'
Rail union RMT said the road closure had 'exposed a severe shortage of capacity' on ScotRail services.
General secretary Mick Cash said: 'The sudden and enforced closure of the Forth Bridge has seriously exposed the chronic lack of spare rolling stock and capacity on ScotRail with the company now advising people not to use their services and to stay at home.
'It is a ludicrous state of affairs when the main rail service is tipped into complete meltdown because of passengers seeking an alternative way of completing their journey.
'This situation calls for an immediate review of the capacity and fleet stock on ScotRail so that passengers are not confronted with this kind of chaotic situation in the future.''