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SNP transport boss dismissed bridge ice threat as ‘extremely rare’

SNP ministers dragged their heels when installing ice sensors on the Queensferry Crossing because they thought severe weather events were “extremely rare”, it has emerged.

Towards the end of last year, the Scottish Conservatives challenged transport minister Michael Matheson on why the sensors had not been installed.

The questions came after three vehicles had their windscreens smashed by falling ice in March last year.

And when asked in November why the sensors hadn’t been installed, Mr Matheson responded: “Incidents like the one on the Queensferry Crossing in March 2019 are extremely rare. Meanwhile, our contractors have developed processes to ensure continued driver safety in the intervening period.”

Then, in December, he added: “Until the sensors to detect whether there is a risk of ice forming are installed, specialist weather forecasting and close observation of the structure will indicate whether physical measures will need to be taken to clear any ice.”

That “close observation” arrived on Monday in the form of eight vehicles being damaged by falling ice, with the vital crossing then shutting down until mid-morning today.

In his series of answers to Scottish Conservative Lothians MSP Miles Briggs on December 19, Mr Matheson confirmed: “Transport Scotland expects to have received all quotations related to the installation of ice sensor equipment this month. Evaluation of quotations will take place in early January and equipment will be installed as soon as possible thereafter.”

Scottish Conservative Lothians MSP Miles Briggs said:

“We’ve been putting pressure on the SNP government for several months over ice sensors, and these admissions expose just how badly it has dragged its feet.

“It’s clear the transport minister dismissed the ice incidents of March last year as, in his words, extremely rare, and not worth addressing with any urgency.

“That complacency has now brought havoc for commuters and businesses on both sides of the Forth, and is yet more proof of another devolved area which the nationalists are driving into the ground.

“The SNP planned, commissioned and constructed this crossing – now that these problems have been uncovered, they must take full responsibility.”

Ends

 

Notes to editors:

 

The three Parliamentary Questions are below:

 

18 November 2019

Index Heading: Transport Scotland

Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Scottish Conservatives and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-25824 by Michael Matheson on 30 October 2019, when the sensors will be fitted.

S5W-26177


Michael Matheson: Incidents like the one on the Queensferry Crossing in March 2019 are extremely rare.

Quotations are currently being sought from specialist providers and we hope to be in a position to install these sensors in the coming months. Meanwhile, our contractors have developed processes to ensure continued driver safety in the intervening period.

4 December 2019

Index Heading: Transport Scotland

Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Scottish Conservatives and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-26177 by Michael Matheson on 18 November 2019, what processes have been developed to ensure continued driver safety in the intervening period.

S5W-26439


Michael Matheson: The safety of road users is our number one priority.

Until the sensors to detect whether there is a risk of ice forming are installed, specialist weather forecasting and close observation of the structure will indicate whether physical measures will need to be taken to clear any ice. In the rare circumstances where ice does form, traffic management will be implemented to facilitate ice clearance, and road users will be alerted in advance to minimize disruption.

 

19 December 2019

Index Heading: Transport Scotland

Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Scottish Conservatives and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-26177 by Michael Matheson on 18 November 2019, by what date it expects (a) to have received all of the quotations from the specialist providers and (b) work on the installation of the sensors to (i) commence and (ii) be completed.

S5W-26660


Michael Matheson: Transport Scotland expects to have received all quotations related to the installation of ice sensor equipment this month. Evaluation of quotations will take place in early January and equipment will be installed as soon as possible thereafter. In the meantime, the bridge Operating Company (Amey) has robust procedures in place and will be monitoring the Queensferry Crossing to ensure the continued safety of road users.

 

 

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