Budget cuts put brakes on Road Bridge resurfacing

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CUTS to the budget for the Forth Road Bridge mean plans to resurface the southbound carriageway have been put on hold.

The move is good news for motorists – so long as heavy traffic does not cause the surface to start breaking up between now and the opening of the new Forth crossing, scheduled for 2017.

Bridge bosses have also postponed plans for an expensive painting job similar to the one recently carried out on the nearby rail bridge.

The Scottish Government has slashed the capital budget for the bridge by 58 per cent over the next three years, taking it down to £13.8m.

The Forth Estuary Transport Authority, which runs the bridge, agreed to use £2.4m from reserves to make sure essential work can go ahead. And it approved a list of priority projects in addition to ones where contracts have already been signed. Top priority goes to dehumidification of the main cable to stop further corrosion; and an upgrade of the acoustic monitoring of the main cable.

The board agreed other schemes would have to be deferred, including resurfacing of the southbound carriageway, last carried out in 2004.

Bridgemaster Barry Colford told the board the surface was only 38mm thick and, after time, use by heavy goods vehicles caused it to “de-bond” from the steel plate underneath. He said: “To extend the life of the surfacing past 2013 does increase the risk of fatigue damage.”

But he said the plan to restrict the bridge to public transport once the new crossing opened should mean the surface lasts longer.

He added: “If resurfacing can be postponed until after the replacement crossing opens, the disruption caused to users can be minimised.”

When the northbound carriageway was resurfaced in 2007, a contraflow system operated on the bridge for 18 weekends, causing long delays to traffic. Instead, FETA proposes “patching” the southbound carriageway.

A FETA source said: “We are prioritising patch repairs to keep it going until 2017. We are trying to postpone resurfacing until the new bridge opens, but we cannot afford to let it deteriorate too much.”

Also being postponed is painting the steelwork under the deck of the bridge, a ten-year project priced at £65m.

The board also confirmed it would not go ahead with proposed wind barriers close to the main towers.