Robotics may be used to helpclear ice from the Queensferry Crossing to ensure it remains open as plans are made for the Forth Road Bridge to be used in emergencies.
Graeme Dey, Minister for Transport, said a number of possible solutions are being looked at to ensure the £1.35 billion bridge is not forced to close in wintry weather. Other measures under consideration include applying de-icing and water repellent coatings to the cables and using a system of infra-red cameras to understand better how the ice forms, reports the Times in Scotland.
The 1.7 mile bridge was supposed to end the problems of bad weather shutting off the main road transport route between Fife and Edinburgh. But in January it was closed for a third time in 12 months as a result of ice forming on its cables. The risk of that falling on to the carriageway meant the crossing had to be shut to vehicles.
The subject was raised in Holyrood yesterday, with Conservative Murdo Fraser, asking what progress was being made on finding a solution.
Mr Dey said ice and rain sensors were installed last year and weather forecasting and traffic management solutions are being worked on. A working group involving consultants, the public agency Transport Scotland and the bridge’s operating company, BEAR Scotland, are looking at possible solutions.
Mr Dey acknowledged he could not guarantee that another bad weather closure will be avoided. “It is worth noting no similar bridge faced with a similar problem anywhere in the world has identified a single solution to this,” he said. “Potential options identified are meriting further additional research and development work.” Dey said these included clearing the cables with “robotics” and applying water repellent coatings and de-icing compounds to the cables and tower faces.
Mr Dey said there were plans for the Forth Road Bridge to be reopened to all traffic “more readily” if the Queensferry Crossing has to shut because of ice formation. It is currently accessed only by public transport.