RHA brands Forth Bridge closure 'unsustainable' financially
Forth Bridge closure is causing chaos for hauliers obliged now to make 60 mile detour
Britain's Road Haulage Association (RHA) says the recent decision by the Scottish Executive to close the vital Forth Bridge artery is costing its members £660,000 (US$990,000) per day, a situation it says "can't be sustained."
The bridge – situated next to its iconic rail equivalent - forms a lifeline across the Firth of Forth for much of Scotland to Edinburgh – but the discovery of recent safety defects have forced its shuttering until the New Year leading to 10,500 lorries per day having to make a 60 mile detour to deliver goods.
Closure comes hot on the heels of another highly contentious issue with which the RHA is currently grappling – that of the continuing migrant crisis at the Port of Calais in Northern France which has seen the association raise concerns for its members' safety as desperate political and economic refugees try to clandestinely cross the English Channel,
"These costs just can't be sustained," an RHA spokeswoman told just-auto. "We have raised the issue of compensation with the [Scottish] government – we are hoping that is met sympathetically."
The RHA is welcoming the announcement from the Department for Transport there is to be temporary and limited relaxation of drivers' hours regulations but remains concerned many operators will be unable to complete their contracts during the course of a normal working day.
"The knock-on effects for hauliers are already beginning to bite", said RHA chief executive Richard Burnett. "Although we welcome the dedicated HGV route on the A985, the additional cost to hauliers is immense.
"The extra cost for a single HGV to replace what is in effect, a 2.5 mile journey with a detour that can amount to approximately a 60 mile round trip will add an extra GBP30 in fuel costs alone. With an estimated 10,500 HGVs using the Bridge each day, additional operating costs for the industry will be well in excess of GBP600,000 per day.
"Already we have had reports from members who have had no alternative but to ask their customers for a rate rise. A request that has, unsurprisingly, been met with a great deal of resistance.
"In addition to the increase in operating costs, the overall efficiency of the haulage industry in Scotland is already being greatly reduced as a journey that would take 30 minutes can now take up to three hours if the route is congested."
The RHA is stressing it has an "extremely good relationship" with the Scottish Executive and despite the bridge closure being "no-one's fault," it nonetheless remains worried for its members' financial welfare.
"Hauliers, already working to tight margins simply cannot absorb these extra costs," added Burnett.
"We need answers. Why, despite regular routine inspections, were these defects not picked up before? And why did they become so serious so quickly?
"The major distribution centres based on the north, Fife side of the River are totally reliant on an efficient, swift transport system.
"The run-up to Christmas is the busiest time of year for these companies and the system, through no fault of its own, has broken down."
The Scottish Executive says it expects repair work to start next week, "once the design has been finalised and an access platform put in place," while Deputy First Minister, John Swinney is to chair a call with business leaders and representatives to see what "more can be done" to support the economy during the closure.