THE MSP who will chair the inquiry into the Forth Road Bridge closure today pledged to find out the facts about what went wrong with the country’s most vital crossing.
Holyrood’s infrastructure committee will launch its inquiry next month, taking evidence from Transport Scotland, bridge operating contractors Amey, independent engineering experts, transport minister Derek Mackay and members of the former Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA).
This will be a focused inquiry, but it will be a thorough and robust piece of work.Jim Eadie
Committee convener and Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie said the probe would include looking at decisions that had been taken on maintenance of the 50-year-old bridge and what effect funding cuts might have had.
He said: “This will be a focused inquiry, but it will be a thorough and robust piece of work to establish the facts around the structural defect and the circumstances leading to the closure of the bridge.
“It’s about establishing what happened, what if anything could have been done to prevent the closure and the lessons that need to be learned for the future.”
The committee has also issued a call for written evidence from any individuals or organisations who feel they may have information relevant to the inquiry.
The bridge has been closed to all traffic since December 4, causing massive disruption for commuters, businesses and visitors.
Urgent repairs are now under way after a crack was discovered on a key structural part of the crossing. Amey has said it is working to a January 4 target for reopening the bridge.
Mr Eadie said: “The closure of the Forth Road Bridge has led to disruption to many commuters, businesses and visitors. While we welcome the government’s announcement that the bridge is expected to reopen early in the new year, legitimate questions have been raised about why the bridge had to be closed and whether the structural problems identified could have been avoided or dealt with differently.”
He said he expected the committee to take oral evidence at a series of sessions in January and February next year with a committee report published in March, likely to lead to a debate in parliament before the May elections.
Scottish Labour deputy leader and Fife MSP Alex Rowley welcomed the inquiry.
He said: “Whilst the priority must be getting the bridge open again as soon as possible, people need to know how we ended up in this situation.
“The inquiry must leave no stone unturned in getting to the truth. We need to hear from expert witnesses, including those who have raised concerns about budget cuts and delayed repair works.”
Mr Rowley claimed Mr Mackay had misled parliament by claiming there was no link between cancelled repair works in 2010 and the damaged area now.
“We need this inquiry to get to the bottom of what went wrong here. The thousands of people and businesses affected expect nothing less,” said Mr Rowley.
Mr Mackay said he was confident when engineers and independent experts gave evidence to the committee, people would see that the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland had taken “difficult but decisive action and have behaved in a responsible manner”.