THE closure of the £1.35bn Queensferry Crossing because of falling lumps of ice has triggered a political row over the competence of the Scottish Government.
The main road bridge between the Lothians and Fife was shut in both directions on Monday after vehicles were hit by ice falling from overhead wires amid Storm Ciara.
The problem was supposed to have been addressed since it occurred last winter.
Drivers are now being forced to take a 35-mile detour via the Kincardine Bridge.
The bridge could remain closed until at least Wednesday.
The Scottish Tories called it “borderline negligence” by the SNP and said it was the latest in a long list of problems in Scotland’s public services.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said he regretted the closure, but admitted a contract to install ice sensors “in the coming months” had yet to be awarded.
Tory transport spokesman Jamie Greene added: “Despite repeated promises by SNP ministers that falling ice would not be an issue, the first sign of snow this winter and the bridge is closed to traffic in both directions for a significant period of time.
“Questions are now being asked as why this issue hasn’t been addressed despite it being known about last winter.
“As usual, the SNP is quick to cut ribbons and stick flags on things when there are still major technical safety issues.
“Be it roads, bridges, ferries, trains or planes – whatever it is the SNP touches seems to end in financial or logistical disaster for the taxpaying public.
“This is beyond political incompetence – it’s now borderline negligence and the general public are sick and tired of it.
“This is what happens when the SNP government is embroiled in internal affairs and sidetracked by independence – it takes its eye off the ball on these big infrastructure projects and it’s the taxpayer who has to cough up.”
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, who represents mid-Scotland and Fife, added: “The SNP commissioned, planned and built this bridge – now it must be fully accountable that things are going wrong.
“This is a government in the throes of capitulation – people are losing trust in its conduct, its reputation and its record.
“This latest closure is yet again causing huge disruption to people in Fife, as well as businesses who rely on this crossing on a daily basis.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Matheson said the Queensferry Crossing had offered given “greater resilience than the old Forth Road Bridge” since opening in 2017.
He said there had approximately 30 occasions where the new bridge has remained open when its predecessor would have been partially or fully shut.
He said: “Clearly this ice build-up issue needs to be further investigated.
“There was an incident towards the end of January or February last year which was being investigated and looked at by the engineers and designers of the bridge to try to identify where the build up of ice had been taking place – whether it was on the cables or on the tower.
“As a result of that work, they’ve been taking forward a proposal to introduce ice sensors on to some parts of the structure.
“That work is now at a fairly advanced stage of the procurement exercise and they are due to look at the installation of the ice sensors in the coming months.
“That’s to assist them in recognising that when there is a build-up of ice on any key parts of the structure that could present a safety risk, they can take action at an earlier stage in order to prevent any potential risk to bridge users.”
Warning of ongoing problems for motorists, Mr Matheson said: “Given the weather forecast from the Met Office, they expect there to continue to be problems with the snow building up on the cables and – as a result of the safety risk that presents – the bridge won’t open if that continues to be the case during the course of the day.
“However, should the situation change and they believe it is safe for the bridge to open again, they will do so as quickly as possible.”