FRESH fears have been raised over whether the new Queensferry Crossing will be finished on time after it emerged that bad weather had halted work for more than five weeks during the summer.
The £1.3 billion bridge across the Forth is already late and the new revelations have prompted doubts about the revised target date for it to be completed by May next year.
Transport chiefs have confirmed that adverse weather – mainly high winds – stopped construction work on the crossing for a total of 38.5 days between June and September.
Economy Secretary Keith Brown is due to visit the bridge this week and he is expected to show off the final six-metre gap between the centre and south towers being closed.
But 10 of the bridge’s 110 deck units have still to be put in place in vital work which was meant to have been finished by the end of last month.
Now Edinburgh Western Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton is demanding assurances over the completion schedule for the 1.7-mile crossing.
He said: “I have written to Keith Brown asking for clarity about the state of the project and, if it has gone behind the contractual deadline what that means – who is paying, whether it’s public money or something the contractor has to absorb.”
He said he was particularly concerned because when the completion date slipped from the end of this year to May next year that was due to 25 days of bad weather in April and May – 12 of which they had planned for.
“Thirteen extra days of bad weather led to a five-month delay so the news they had 38.5 days of bad weather inevitably raises doubts that we are going to hit the revised target of May.”
He said he feared with winter approaching the finish date would be put off again.
He said: “I’m not trying to do the project down and I don’t for a moment blame the contractors for not working on these days – safety has to be the first consideration and if it’s not safe they should not be working.
“But I think everyone should perhaps have had a more realistic view of what the Scottish weather can be like and the impact it might have.”
Among the sections of the project still to be completed are the installation of three metre-high wind shield sections, which can only be put on when all the deck units are in place.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said he understood the aim had been to have that work completed before winter arrived.
Just last month, Transport Scotland’s project director David Climie told a Holyrood committee there had been a “worse than average winter”, but he was confident the bridge could be open by May, as planned, after a “good three months”.
But he admitted bad weather could still make it “challenging” to hit the target and added that “everything that can safely be done is being done”.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Good progress has been made recently and the project is on schedule to open in May 2017.”