Forth Road Bridge Inquiry To Be Held

A Holyrood committee has agreed to hold a focused inquiry on the closure of the Forth Road Bridge.

The Infrastructure and Capital Investment (ICI) Committee said the inquiry would have a narrow remit looking at the structural defects leading to the closure of the crossing.

Transport minister Derek Mackay announced earlier this month the bridge would be closed until the new year to allow repairs to be carried out on defective steel work.

Committee convener Jim Eadie said: "Clearly the closure of the bridge has led to significant disruption for commuters, businesses and visitors.

"It has also led to a number of questions being asked and differences of opinion being aired on how the situation has arisen.

"This is clearly a matter of significant public interest and I firmly believe that the committee has both a duty and a responsibility to carry out its function as a committee in seeking to ask questions of the key stakeholders and to elicit answers on behalf of the public.

"The clear advice from the clerks is that it would be more useful for this committee to focus its inquiry on the structural defects identified and whether these could have been avoided or dealt with differently.''

Mr Mackay said: "I welcome the ICI committee's decision to hold an inquiry, once the bridge has reopened, and I look forward to participating in that process.

"From day one I have been open and accountable. I have also been fully accessible, updating Parliament, speaking to the media on a daily basis, chairing a technical briefing for MSPs and keeping stakeholders and political representatives up to date, I have taken every opportunity to be transparent on this issue of national importance - that will continue to be the case.

"I am confident that when the engineers - including those with 30 years' experience of working on the FRB and the independent experts - get the chance to provide evidence to the committee, including the unpredictable nature of the fault, then people will see that the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland have taken difficult but decisive action, and have behaved in a responsible manner.''

MSPs agreed to begin taking evidence next month from Transport Scotland and Amey officials and engineers, representatives of the former Forth Estuary Transport Authority (Feta), independent engineering experts and Mr Mackay.

The committee also agreed to seek the assistance of an independent technical advisor.

Welcoming the decision, Scottish Labour deputy leader and Fife MSP Alex Rowley said: "Whilst the priority must be getting the bridge open again as soon as possible, people need to know how we ended up in this situation.

"The bridge inquiry must leave no stone unturned in getting to the truth. We need to hear from expert witnesses, including those who have previously raised concerns about budget cuts and delayed repair works.

"Derek Mackay was right to agree to our call for the publication of all documentation on bridge maintenance going back to 2009. He must now make good on that promise.

We know the SNP transport minister misled Parliament when he claimed there was no link between cancelled repair works in 2010 and the damaged area now. And we know the SNP government's budget cuts resulted in vital repair works being put off.

"We need this inquiry to get to the bottom of what went wrong here. The thousands of people and businesses affected expect nothing less.''