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FTA welcomes drivers’ hours relaxation but says bridge must reopen

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says extension to drivers’ hours’ relaxation in Scotland will help, but the reopening of Forth Road Bridge to HGV’s is vital.

The FTA says that the European Commission’s extension to the drivers’ hours’ relaxation until the 15th of February will help transport operators cope with the 50 mile detour caused by the closure of the Forth Road Bridge.

The Department for Transport (DfT) last night announced that the EC has approved the extension whilst vehicles over 7.5 tonnes are unable to use the bridge, which has been undergoing repair works after a crack in the steelworks was found.

The repair work began on the 3 December, with the bridge due to reopen to all vehicles on 4 January. On the 22 December, Transport Scotland announced that cars, buses and coaches could cross the bridge, after a temporary steer splint had been installed on one truss. HGV’s and any vehicle weighing over 7.5 tonnes were informed that they could not access the bridge until permanent strengthening work is completed. Transport Scotland says the works should be completed around mid-February.

FTA’s Director of Policy Karen Dee said: “The First Minister offered reassurance that the bridge would re-open to all vehicles on 4 January so the delay has been a devastating blow for FTA members. The additional costs incurred by the 50-mile diversion are significant, especially when contracts have already been signed and there is no opportunity to recoup the money.

“The extension of the drivers’ hours’ relaxation will help operators to manage their fleets while the diversion is in place, but the priority must be to get the bridge open to HGVs as soon as possible.”

Members of the FTA have reported extra costs of thousands of pounds a day for the extra mileage and staff needed, with an estimated cost of between two and four thousand pounds per day.