Drivers are facing "inevitable and lengthy" traffic queues on the Forth Road Bridge this coming summer, authorities have warned.
Long delays are likely on the bridge
The 36,000 drivers that use the bridge every day during the week in the summer will be held up while "essential roadwork" is carried out on the road link.
A board meeting of the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) decided the
southbound carriageway of the 39-year-old bridge must close for at least 16
weekends, or 33 consecutive days, including weekdays this summer.
While the carriageway is resurfaced, traffic flow will be reduced to a single
lane in each direction.
General manager of FETA Alastair Andrew said he did not want to shirk the
responsibility of telling people "how bad it is going to be".
He warned: "Traffic delays will be inevitable and they could be severe."
It is understood Network Rail could be carrying out repairs on the Forth Rail
Bridge around the same time, although the organisation claims it has "no
intention" of closing the rail bridge at the same time as the road link.
If both bridges did close simultaneously it could cause serious headaches for
tourists and commuters between Fife and the Lothians.
The two organisations have already been in discussions aimed at avoiding such a shutdown and FETA have pledged to co-ordinate future works for the "minimum of disruption".
They also plan to consult the Scottish Executive, Network Rail, VisitScotland,
the AA and RAC.
Whether to close only at weekends or for consecutive days will be decided in
the New Year.
Mr Andrew admitted commuters will be particularly hard struck.
He said: "There is little scope for commuters to change their mode of
transport as buses will also be delayed in the roadworks and there is little
capacity on the trains."
The idea of a new bridge across the Forth was revisited at the meeting
following discussions with transport minister Nicol Stephen.
Plans to build a crossing at Queensferry are to be updated, taking on board
the increase in traffic across the river and the fact any new bridge would have
to be a "multi-modal" crossing, with priority given to public transport
including trams and light railway.
FETA chief executive Douglas Sinclair said Mr Stephen has invited the
authority to "prove the case" for a new crossing.