Ice sensors to be installed on Queensferry Crossing

A five-point plan is being put in place to monitor the condition of the bridge in winter conditions.

Transport secretary Michael Matheson has announced ice sensors will be installed on the Queensferry Crossing “in the coming months” following its closure last week.

The bridge was shut for two days after falling ice damaged up to eight cars, causing a political backlash over the first closure since it opened in 2017.

In Holyrood on Tuesday, Mr Matheson said a five-point plan is being put in place to monitor the condition of the bridge in winter weather and ice sensors will be installed within months.

The transport secretary also said the option of using the Forth Road Bridge in the event of another closure – which was set aside as a public transport corridor after the opening of the crossing – is being explored.

A technical briefing is due to take place for local MSPs and members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee on February 24 to “inform them of the circumstances of the closure, our developing understanding of why this happened and how we plan to respond to these challenges”, according to Mr Matheson.

Asked by Greens MSP Mark Ruskell about the closure, Mr Matheson said: “Initial learning from the event on February 10 has resulted in a five-point plan being put in place to further enhance monitoring and gather increased intelligence from the observations.

“Visual monitoring remains the primary source of understanding the effects of these conditions and this will be assisted by the installation of ice sensors in the coming months.”

Mr Ruskell asked if there was a procedure to be undertaken if the decision is made to close the bridge and who should be contacted in the result of a problem – after it was revealed Fife Council was not made aware of the intended closure before it happened.

Assuring the MSP that efforts were made to contact the council, Mr Matheson said: “I understand and recognise the difficulties that it caused people and I very much regret that.

“As I’m sure the member will appreciate, [the decision] was taken because of safety.

“My understanding is that they did seek to engage with Fife Council to make them aware of this.”

Mr Matheson added the debrief could be used as a chance to assess what further measures could be put in place to ensure communication is stronger between authorities.

He said Transport Scotland staff are looking into the possibility of using the Forth Road Bridge – which currently has one carriageway closed for refurbishment and another servicing as a public transport corridor – should there be another closure.

He said: “One of the actions I’ve asked my officials to look at in the future is that, given there was major refurbishment work taking place on the Forth Road crossing, is that in future winter periods we look to minimise the works that may be being carried out so it could be used as a diversion route – which would reduce the need for an extended diversion route through places like Kincardine.”