Forth Road Bridge to remain closed until New Year after fault found
Extra train carriages and ferry services being explored to mitigate closure.
The Forth Road Bridge is to remain closed until the beginning of 2016 at the earliest after a fault was found on the road.
A complete closure came into force at midnight on Friday which caused significant disruption to commuters, particularly during the peak rush-hour periods.
The delays are set to continue for at least four weeks after transport minister Derek MacKay said it was the "right decision" to close the bridge for the repairs.
Mr MacKay said: "The decision to close the Forth Road Bridge is not taken lightly. It is based on the expert opinion of the engineers who operate the bridge day to day and that of independent experts in the field.
"Every effort is being made to open the bridge as quickly as possible but safety is the main priority, however these works are weather dependent given the height and location of the bridge. We are aware of the potential economic impact, for strategic traffic in the east of Scotland and on people living in local communities.
"This is an unprecedented challenge in the maintenance of the Forth Road Bridge. On balance following advice from engineers and independent experts, the full closure is essential for the safety of the travelling public and to prevent further damage to the structure of the bridge.
"The bridge operators Amey have a robust inspection team is in place and these defects are problems that have only occurred in the last number of weeks.
"We are taking every step we can to lessen the impact of this closure. Action now, will mean that any closure is much shorter than it might be if we waited. We continue to work closely with all partners to co-ordinate our efforts to lessen the impact of this closure.
"Additional bus and rail services are being provided between Fife and Edinburgh. Every effort and resource available is being deployed to repair the damage to the Forth Road Bridge and minimise the disruption to the public."
Seven days will be needed for the assessment and design of the repair to the bridge before a fortnight of engineering work takes place.
Extra train carriages will be run by ScotRail and a ferry service is being explored to mitigate the closure.
Emergency vehicles on blue light calls will be able to use the bridge despite the closure.
Experts say there is a"component failure" on the bridge which is difficult to access location of.
The defect is underneath the southbound carriageway at the north tower and had been found during a routine inspection by engineers.
Chartered engineer Mark Arndt, Amey's account director responsible for the bridge, said: "This is a complex engineering challenge. The component failure is in a difficult to access location and our response is also highly dependent on weather conditions.
"We continue to work around the clock on inspections, assessments and calculations along with the development of designs to effect the necessary repairs, while at the same time mobilising all the resources required to reopen the bridge as soon as is possible."
Before the Forth Road Bridge opened more than 50 years ago, cars travelling between Edinburgh and Fife would cross on a ferry.
When the bridge opened in 1964 after six years of construction, it was the fourth biggest suspension bridge in the world and the longest outside America, stretching more than 1km.
The Queen officially opened the bridge at a ceremony attended by thousands of people and there was a 21-gun salute fired by Royal Navy ships in the estuary.
Construction of the bridge and surrounding roads cost 19.5m, which was raised in toll fares by bridge users by 1993. Bridge tolls were abolished in 2008, with the Scottish Government taking over the funding on the A-listed structure.
About 70,000 vehicles cross the bridge each week day, and around 24 million every year. Legislation was brought forward five years ago in the Scottish Parliament paving the way for the construction of a replacement crossing following concerns over the strength of the cables used in the ageing bridge.
The new Queensferry Crossing, due to be completed by the end of next year, will carry road traffic, with the Forth Road Bridge becoming dedicated to public transport.
Officials say the new 2.5km structure over the Forth will be the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world.