MASSIVE disruption which had been predicted for motorists as a result of a major upgrade to the Forth Road Bridge is set to be avoided, transport bosses said today.
Engineers are preparing to start work on a specially constructed suspended platform underneath the bridge to replace its ageing joints.
It was originally thought the trial replacement of joints linking the 18-metre lengths of roadway which make up the bridge would require day-time and weekend carriageway closures of up to 24 hours at a time when work gets under way in September.
But contractors said the construction of the suspended scaffold and the adoption of advanced design and measurement techniques would remove the need for such closures, with traffic restrictions now set to be limited to night-time hours.
Managers at Raynesway Construction, which has won the upgrade contract, worth just over £320,000, also said they expected work to be carried out over five nights in early September.
They said the work, which will remove gaps of up to 20mm between sections of roadway, will help eliminate the “bump-bump” sensation experienced by drivers as they pass over the joints and create a smoother passage.
Stephen Scott, managing director of Raynesway Construction, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to achieve this solution, which means the work can be done through night shift rather than through day shift closures.
“We have erected a temporary scaffold underneath the deck of the bridge allowing us access to the underside of the deck while the traffic passes unrestricted above.
“We’ve been able to get access to the work area and through various design ideas that we’ve refined, we’ve been able then to do work to manufacture off-site components. We’ll be able to install them without needing the traffic to stop.”
Mr Scott said that, despite engineers working while suspended hundreds of feet in the air, the erection of a temporary scaffold enabling replacement of the bridge’s joints was a ”standard procedure”. He said: “It’s a solution that’s been tried before and it’s certainly one that we’ve carried out previous contracts with.”
Chris Waite, of the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, which operates the bridge, said: “This is good news and we are very pleased.
“Originally when we were looking at this we thought we were going to have to close the whole carriageway, which would have caused disruption to motorists.
“It’s been a case of fine-tuning the process and the methods we are using to carry out the works. The consultant engineers have done some very clever engineering work and have found a way to do this without the need for daytime, weekend closures.”
He added: “We are now confident that we can do this work overnight, which will minimise disruption. There should not now be delays and we are not expecting any significant disruption.”