A lack of long-term planning to tackle ice falling from cables on the Queensferry Crossing has been described as “woeful” after transport minister, Graeme Dey, refused to rule out years of further disruption.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser raised the issue during a session at Holyrood on Wednesday but fears his constituents in Fife and motorists in the east of Scotland look set to face years of further travel problems.
Mr Fraser was told by the newly-appointed transport minister that various possible solutions have been considered, including using the Forth Road Bridge as an alternative route for motorists if the Crossing is forced to close again.
The closure of the route in January, for the third time in a year, was branded a “national humiliation” after drivers were faced with a near 40-mile diversion via Kincardine as officials shut the £1.3 billion bridge in both directions because of the risk of falling ice.
The bridge closed for the first time the previous February when chunks of ice and snow fell from cables and crashed onto vehicles. Ice sensors were fitted in July but the crossing closed again in December as Scotland was hit by extreme weather.
Mr Dey insisted “no shortage of effort and imagination” is going towards finding a solution to the problem and the method of ice accumulation on the bridge is now “much better understood” by officials.
He said a number of possible solutions are currently under consideration by a working group but he refused to rule out further years of disruption.
Mr Fraser pushed the transport minister on whether any reassurances can be given on when a solution will be found.
He said: “Twice over the last winter my constituents in Fife and people across the east of Scotland faced huge disruption from the closure of the Queensferry Crossing. They don’t want to go into another winter seeing a similar situation.
“It does sound from the minister’s response that any long-term solution is still some way off. Can he give any comfort or reassurance to my constituents that we won’t be facing more winters of disruption?”
Mr Dey was accused of making “facetious comments” in response to the question after remarking that he is unable to predict the weather.
He said: “As members will know, I can’t speak for the weather. Weather interventions are beyond our control.
“What I can offer is some comfort around the extent to which we are getting into this, to find solutions. It’s worth noting that no similar bridge with a similar problem anywhere in the world has identified a single solution to this.
“But we are getting into this in great detail. Potential options identified are meriting further additional research and development work.”
Speaking later, Mr Fraser said: “The lack of a long-term solution by the SNP Government to deal with this problem of ice falling from the cables of the Queensferry Crossing is basically woeful.
“I raised the concerns of many of my constituents in Fife, who want reassurance that we won’t see another winter of disruption caused by this problem.
“However, all I heard from the minister for transport was that there is no timetable for improvements and that the SNP Government has no idea when any proposed improvements will be done.”
He continued: “It was clear from the minister for transport’s answer to my question that there is still no long-term solution for this problem, so it looks like we are in for years of disruption. That is not good enough and I know many of my constituents will be rightly frustrated by this response.
“It is not good enough for the minister for transport to make facetious comments about not being able to predict the weather – all it takes is one night of freezing weather and we will have the likelihood of ice falling from the cables of the Queensferry Crossing and the subsequent closure of the bridge and inevitable disruption that will follow.”