A CONTRACT to fix the “overstressed” area of the Forth Road Bridge which has now cracked was cancelled in 2011, it has been revealed.
The 51-year-old bridge has been closed until the new year after a two centimetre wide crack was discovered in a key part of the steel framework
But now it has been revealed that a contract to strengthen certain “overstressed” key elements of this same framework was opened to bids in 2010, before being cancelled the following year.
The contract would have cost as little as £150,000 to taxpayers – whilst the current closure of the bridge is set to cost Scottish businesses in the region of £50m.
The contract was opened to bids from engineering firms on 25 May 2010 – after bridge bosses decided the “truss end connections” needed to be strengthened.
The “truss end connections” connect the steel frame of the bridge to the pillars, and area a part of the same framework which has cracked – causing traffic chaos.
The contract was organised by the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA), which has since been dissolved.
The contract reads: “Assessments of the suspended structure and the truss end connections have identified that several of the key elements forming these connections are overstressed.
“A feasibility study has been undertaken and a preferred option identified to strengthen the existing truss end link connection.
“The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) wishes to appoint a suitably experienced consulting engineer to undertake the detailed design of the new truss end connections.
“The successful candidate will also be responsible for the preparation of tender documentation and the supervision of the works on site.”
The contract document gave the likely cost of the work as between £150,000 and £500,000.
But in March 2011 the contract was cancelled “due to a change in the anticipated scope of the works.”
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “lt’s clear from a number of damming reports that the SNP has failed to properly invest in infrastructure and now Scotland is paying the price.
“The Forth Road Bridge is one of Scotland’s key routes and the Scottish Government knew work needed done on the bridge but instead they choose to defer it on a number of occasions.
“Now because of the SNP’s inability to act, we have a catastrophic situation for motorists not to mention the economy and there are very serious questions to be answered as to how this situation was allowed to develop.”
And a spokesman for Scotland’s Worst Drivers added: “The authorities were clearly aware that the bridge was overstressed and in need of strengthening.
“Their claim that this was not a part of the bridge that was identified as needing such work is false.
“I suspect the contract to strengthen was cancelled, as they hoped that they could have the new Queensferry Crossing built and opened, before the issue with the steelwork became critical.
“I find it astonishing that a project which had an estimated cost of between 150 and 500k, through sheer incompetence is now costing Scottish businesses £50m.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said, in relation to the private firm now managing the bridge: “Amey have informed us that the ongoing truss end strengthening works are to a different part of the truss end linkage system to that which failed earlier this week.
“The truss end link member, which transfers load to the pin linkage, and which has suffered a complete weld fracture near the pin joint, was not previously identified as requiring strengthening or to be at risk of failure.
“The unexpected nature of weld cracking leading to failure is highly unpredictable, and this issue is unrelated to the other strengthening works.”