Queensferry Crossing delayed until June 2017, but it’s not late says minister

The long-awaited £1.4 billion Queensferry Crossing will not now open until June 2017, six months later than planned, the Scottish government’s infrastructure secretary has admitted.

Informing ministers that more time will be needed to complete the bridge, Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC), the consortium building the bridge, said that continuing weather problems affecting construction will mean that the completion of the bridge will be behind schedule.

Infrastructure secretary Keith Brown attempted to put a gloss on the news by saying that the project would still be finished within the contractual completion date of June 2017 although this would be six months after the “target” opening date of December 2016.

In a statement, Transport Scotland said: “Since September 2015 the downtime due to adverse weather, specifically wind, has been 40 per cent compared to the 25 per cent anticipated by the contractor. Until May, FCBC believed that they could mitigate these effects – however, the impact of the weather in April and May with 13 days and 12 days lost to weather was such that they have advised that they can no longer deliver the December 2016 target.

“Whilst FCBC have been able to mitigate the impacts of weather by increasing resources and running a number of activities in parallel they are now entering a stage of bridge construction which is technically very complex.

“In order to mitigate the ongoing weather impacts that have arisen over the past few months FCBC has procured additional physical resource, increased staffing by taking on an additional 100 workers, increased working hours, altered construction methodologies where possible and challenged critical construction sequences to identify where any programme efficiencies could be found.

“They have now reached the stage where further additional resources will not bring the delivery date forward due to the complex technical nature of the construction work. In addition, the remaining construction activities can only be carried out sequentially, further limiting the ability to make further gains.

“Specifically the bridge deck and the cable installation process which began in September 2015 is particularly sensitive to wind and this increases as the cables used become longer and are installed at a greater height .

“FCBC have confirmed this creates an unavoidable knock-on effect for subsequent activities, road surfacing and wind barriers which will now take place in wet and cold conditions during autumn and winter 2016/2017.

“This is a project with its own unique weather challenges and the contractor has incorporated their experience to date with weather in their planning process. As a result, they now expect to open the bridge by May 2017, ahead of the contractual completion date.”

Keith Brown said that the government would continue to work closely with the contractors and he would personally ensure that “every pressure and every resource is brought to bear to deliver or even better the revised target date of May 2017”.

Brown said that in order to ensure that the project remains on track he had implemented enhanced governance procedures from Transport Scotland senior management and will be receiving twice weekly updates from the project team.

“We have always been ambitious about this project and have always worked towards a deliberately ambitious target,” Brown said. “However, It is important to recognise that FCBC still fully expects the project to complete within the timeframe of their contract. This project is not late and there will be no impact on the public purse.

 “The Queensferry Crossing directly employs over 1,200 people, many of whom have been performing some of the most complex civil engineering ever seen in Scotland, in the highly challenging environment of the Firth of Forth. Over 12 million man hours have gone into the project so far and we should not lose sight of their hard work and dedication. Anyone who looks at the works in the Forth cannot fail to be impressed with their achievements to date,” said Brown.

Reacting to the news, Scottish Conservative finance spokesperson Murdo Fraser said: “This is very disappointing news for people on both sides of the bridge. They were continually told by the Scottish Government that this project was ahead of schedule and would soon be up and running. Now we find this is not the case, so the SNP must now give an exact date when this will be completed by.”

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