High-level meeting to discuss new ways of stopping lorry drivers ignoring Forth Road Bridge wind warnings

© DC Thomson
The lorry overturned on the Forth Road Bridge.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been pressed over what is being done to prevent high-sided vehicles accessing the Forth Road Bridge during wind warnings.

The bridge was shut for almost four hours on Tuesday, causing evening rush-hour chaos, after a lorry driver apparently ignored warning signs and tried to cross. His lorry trailer toppled, closing both lanes.

Many have called for Police Scotland or bridge authorities to play a more active role in controlling access to the bridge while restrictions are in place.

Responding to Liz Smith MSP during First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon revealed Transport Scotland would be holding discussions with Police Scotland and local authorities to see what more can be done.

Driver Juozas Zilvys, 56, will appear on trial at Dunfermline Sheriff Court facing a dangerous driving charge after Tuesday’s disruption.

Another lorry driver, 55-year-old Aleksander Niemiec from Macclesfield, was fined £1,000 and banned for two years after he admitted ignoring high wind warning signs on the approach to the bridge on January 11.

Niemiec’s actions resulted in the bridge being closed in both directions for 19 hours, causing widespread problems for motorists.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Ms Smith asked the First Minister: “In light of the recent traffic incident on the Forth Road Bridge and the serious effect this has had in residents and businesses in Mid Scotland and Fife, and in the Lothians, will the Scottish Government undertake to have urgent talks with Transport Scotland to put in place additional measures besides those tougher penalties that are being imposed by the police on the offending drivers, so that more is done in the first instance to prevent the blatant disregard of traffic restrictions?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “This was another very regrettable incident on the Forth Road Bridge.

“A multi-agency response was very quickly put in place to respond to the closure and it worked effectively to manage the associated travel impact and to get the bridge reopened as quickly as possible.

“And let me thank everybody who worked hard to make sure that that happened.”

The First Minister told MSPs that Transport Scotland would be hosting a conference in the near future to discuss how bridge closures could be prevented.

Those taking part will include the traffic commissioner, Police Scotland, Forth Road Bridge operating company Amey, local authorities and representatives from the freight sector.

Ms Sturgeon added: “We’re also of course committed to the largest road investment programme ever, including the £1.35 billion Queensferry Crossing project and as part of that investment wind shielding is being fitted during the project to mitigate any wind-related closures on the new bridge.

“However, in terms of the existing bridge it is important that we continue to explore what we can do to avoid people flouting the advice and it resulting in closures which should be completely avoidable.”