Frequently asked questions
When did Amey become responsible for the maintenance and operation of the Forth Road Bridges?
The Scottish Government awarded the management, maintenance and operation of the bridge to Amey on 18 December 2014. Amey now operates this contract as the Forth Bridges Unit.
From 1 June 2015, the Forth Bridges Unit has taken responsibility for the maintenance of the Forth Road Bridge and its northern and southern approach roads (M9 Junction 3, Halbeath to Junction 1A, Kirkliston).
When the new Queensferry Crossing becomes operational in December 2016, it will be incorporated into the new Forth Bridges Unit. The existing Forth Road Bridge will become a dedicated route for public transport, although it may provide a diversionary route if the Queensferry Crossing requires closure.
Amey also operates the Scottish South East Trunk Roads Network on behalf of Transport Scotland, and with the inclusion of the Forth Bridges Unit there is an opportunity to provide greater consistency, improved service and value for money across the economically vital trunk road network.
Amey will also be offering a range of employment and community benefits to the local community.
What happened to the previous FETA (Forth Estuary Transport Authority) workforce?
Most existing FETA employees transferred via the TUPE process (Transfer of undertakings – Protection of Employment – Regulations 2006) to the Forth Bridges Unit, currently managed by Amey. The TUPE process is intended to protect the rights and current contractual conditions of the current workforce.
What services do Amey provide as the Forth Bridges Unit?
Amey undertakes detailed inspections of the Forth Road Bridge (and in future the Queensferry Crossing) and their approach roads. Regular safety patrols ensure that the traveling public is kept safe and that the bridge is being effectively maintained. Amey identifies, records and repairs any defects on the bridge. Amey uses detailed traffic modelling to minimise disruption to road users while essential maintenance is being undertaken.
Each year Amey develops a Winter Service Plan to ensure that the bridge is maintained and operates effectively during severe winter, with a programme of gritting, snow clearing and winter patrols to keep traffic moving.
The Amey Control Room reports directly to the main Traffic Scotland Control Centre at South Queensferry ensuring that up-to-date information and reports of any incidents are available at all times across the network.
How many staff are employed at the Forth Road Bridge?
Normally around 70, but this increases during the period April to October when around 10 additional painters are employed on a temporary basis. Staff responsibilities include bridge maintenance, traffic management and administration.
What is the heaviest vehicle that can be carried by the bridge?
The bridge was designed to carry a four-axle, sixteen wheel design vehicle weighing 180 tons. In practice, such vehicles are never used on the roads as special multiple axle trailers are used to transport abnormal loads. The bridge has carried 215 tons spread over 15 axles. All such loads require to be notified for acceptance following analysis. For more information on abnormal loads click here.
Does the increase in traffic volumes affect the bridge?
No. The bridge has been substantially strengthened since 1964 to cope with current traffic loading including the new 44 tonne commercial vehicles. Once the bridge is full of vehicles, the maximum load is reached. The loading is not affected by other vehicles in a queue waiting to get on the bridge.
How often is the bridge painted?
It is a commonly held misconception that we are constantly painting the bridge. The different elements of the bridge have varying needs. For example during the summers of 2002 to 2005 the main towers will be overcoated with a modified polyurethane paint providing a further 25 years protection. Painting the underside of the steel deck can take 10 years but the life of the paint system will be 25 years.
How long will the bridge last?
The original design life was 120 years but with proper maintenance the bridge will last longer than that. Within the design life, major components will require to be replaced such as the suspender ropes (replaced after 35 years), expansion joints and bearings. Surfacing on the deck needs to be replaced more frequently, especially as traffic levels grow.
Some doubt has recently emerged over the lifespan of the bridge following the discovery of corrosion in the main suspension cables, but we are optimistic that the dehumidification system currently being installed will prevent further deterioration.
How much does the bridge move?
The bridge is very flexible. If the wind blows at 110 miles per hour, the centre point of the bridge will have moved about 7m in the direction of the wind. If the temperature rises by 20 degrees centigrade the centre point will drop by 1m. This flexibility is quite normal in long span suspension bridges and is hardly noticed by drivers.
Why the need for minor roadworks?
The Forth Road Bridge is over 40 years old and is now carrying more load than it was designed for. In order to keep the bridge available to you we need to carry out regular maintenance of a routine nature. This work can include weld repairs to the steelwork below the road level and repairs to the road surfacing and expansion joints. Where practical these “routine” repairs are undertaken overnight when the traffic volume is low and delays are minimised. These works continue throughout the year.
Why the need for major roadworks?
In addition to routine maintenance, major works are also required some of which by their very nature must be carried out during daylight hours. Where practical these major works are restricted to weekends and kept to a minimum. Such works can be sensitive to weather conditions and other operational difficulties and hence subject to last minute change. Significant changes to planned works will be notified as soon as possible.