Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC) has told its client, Transport Scotland, that it needs up to 10 more weeks to complete its £790m contract.
FCBC’s contractual completion date is June but it had been working to a December 2016 completion until bad weather caused delays last year and opening was pushed back to May 2017. [See previous report here.] The exact opening date will now be sometime between mid-July and the end of August.
The FCBC consortium of Hochtief, Dragados, American Bridge and Morrison Construction has reported there have been fewer clear weather windows than expected, particularly in relation to wind. This has delayed weather dependant activities causing them to bunch together at the end of the programme to a much greater degree than was anticipated. This means that a lot of construction activity is underway simultaneously and careful planning is required to ensure that this can be done safely, so that one activity does not impact on another.
Transport Scotland recognises that at this stage of the project all remaining activities are vulnerable to weather conditions. For example, the tower cranes can only be taken down in wind speeds of less than 25 mph and, when this is happening, it is not possible to work safely within a 50 metre radius of the crane. Work on cable stays is also sensitive to wind, waterproofing the bridge deck is sensitive to rain and road surfacing is sensitive to both rain and low temperatures.
With so much simultaneous activity underway, there are no further opportunities to mitigate the effects of weather delays at this point of the construction programme.
Hochtief UK managing director Sally Cox, who chairs the board of the contracting team, said: “FCBC acknowledge that the uniqueness of this project and the onerous weather conditions it has experienced, particularly working at height crossing the Forth have created more challenges than we anticipated.
“FCBC have always been and remain ambitious about completing this challenging project at the earliest possible date and share Transport Scotland and the public’s frustration over this delay. We have assured Transport Scotland that every endeavour is and will continue to be made, to safely complete the project at the earliest opportunity.”
Economy secretary Keith Brown said: “Today there are only nine weeks remaining to the end of May and the review has concluded that even with the best weather this date is not now safely achievable. I fully recognise the effort of the workforce in building this amazing new bridge. Over 13 million hours have gone into building the Queensferry Crossing over the past six years.
“There is no additional cost to the public purse and the Forth Road Bridge continues to carry traffic over the Forth during these final weeks of construction. While it is clearly very disappointing the new bridge won’t be ready ahead of the contractual completion date, I believe it is important to take the time to make sure the bridge is built in the safest possible circumstances to the highest possible standards.”