Payouts considered for firms over Forth Bridge closure

Finance Secretary John Swinney with the Queensferry Crossing under construction. He is to consider compensation over closure. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Finance Secretary John Swinney with the Queensferry Crossing under construction. He is to consider compensation over closure. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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John Swinney is to consider making compensation payouts to businesses which have suffered losses over the Forth Road Bridge closure, MSPs have been told.

The move has been welcomed by industry bodies who say millions of pounds is being lost every week while the vital crossing remains closed. Fife Council has now urged local firms to direct compensation claims to the Scottish Government’s transport arm, Transport Scotland, as their costs mount.

We are still bearing the brunt of the additional costs. We would welcome any help that the government was able to give contractors affected

Martin Reid, Road Haulage Association

Transport minister Derek Mackay yesterday insisted that the programme of work to repair the cracked truss which brought about the bridge closure remains on schedule with the bridge set to reopen on 4 January.

But the Tory enterprise spokesman Murdo Fraser asked how compensation claims would be dealt with as Mr Mackay addressed MSPs on the issue at Holyrood yesterday.

The minister insisted his “priority” was to get the bridge reopened as quickly as possible and ensure the contingency travel plans were running smoothly. He added: “In terms of the wider question around compensation the Deputy First Minister [John Swinney] has held very useful talks with businesses, in fact some of these constructive ideas have led to changes in the travel plan.

“Mr Swinney, I’m sure, will consider the issue of compensation further.”

The closure has caused widespread disruption for thousands of commuters between Fife and Edinburgh. Local businesses are losing out as delivery costs go up, both in fuel and driver costs. There are also extra costs for staff travel.

Eric Biyers, chief executive of Fife Chamber of Commerce, last night welcomed the government plans to consider compensation.

“There are two level to it,” he said. “There’s business operation costs and there are workforce and individual travel costs. Both of these are hitting local businesses quite hard.”

Martin Reid, Scotland director of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has said hauliers were losing up to £660,000 a day, but said additional freight lanes have helped the industry.

But few hauliers have been successful in recouping extra costs from their customers, Mr Reid said.

“The hauliers are still bearing the brunt of the additional costs,” he added.

“We would welcome any help that the government was able to give the contractors affected.”