Any emergency diversion over the Forth Road Bridge will only be put in place overnight, bridge operators have confirmed.
With previous roadworks now lifted on the older bridge, a further trial of how a a Queensferry Crossing closure-enforced diversion might work is due to take place later this month.
Conservative Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser, said “This revelation is utterly shocking and will infuriate all those who had understood that it would be available at fairly short notice.
“Surely the whole point in using the Forth Road Bridge as a diversion was to alleviate congestion and chaos for motorists if the Queensferry Crossing has to close again?
“But now we are told that this can only happen outwith peak times, presumably with preparations for using the Forth Road Bridge as a diversion taking place the night before if bridge operators get notification that severe weather is on its way.
“It is a very strange way of trying to solve the problem of the Queensferry Crossing closing and is not a reactive measure.
“I realise that there is a lot of work involved in co-ordinating the alternative of using the Forth Road Bridge but this is yet another case of the Scottish Government not telling the public the whole truth.”
A trial last month saw both bridges shut overnight to test how quickly a diversion could be put in place after the structure had to shut for several hours when ice was detected on two separate occasions in December.
Last February, falling ice from the cables damaged eight vehicles and caused a 16-hour shutdown. Concerns remain about ice falling from cables on the new £1.3bn bridge.
Chris Tracey, road operator BEAR Scotland’s South East Unit Bridges manager, explained: “It should be noted that an emergency diversion would only be implemented overnight, outside peak periods.
“This is because it takes several hours to remove roadside barriers and lay large numbers of cones and signs, and this process would cause significant additional disruption to traffic during busy periods.
“A trial diversion over the Forth Road Bridge will be carried out in January, with the aim of further refining this process.”
Work to replace the Forth Road Bridge’s main expansion joints in the southbound carriageway was completed just before Christmas and efforts to replace the main expansion joints in the northbound carriageway are due to start in April and finish before the end of October.
Work to replace smaller joints in the west footpath will be carried out between January and April and some short-term lane closures will be required to allow components to be lifted in and out of position.
However, these will be rescheduled if the bridge is required for use as a diversion route.
Mr Tracey said the fact the bridge is currently free from major roadworks is a “significant milestone in what has been a challenging project”.
“The pandemic resulted in a three-month suspension of work on site earlier this year and a subsequent modification of working practices.
“We also discovered hidden issues once we took the joints apart, including details that differed from the original construction drawings, and these required additional works to resolve.”