By Gillian McKenzie
Operators in the east of Scotland are braced for major disruption over the busy festive period following confirmation that the Forth Road Bridge will be closed until the new year.
Wholesale firms have moved to reassure licensees that they are working to minimise disruption to deliveries, with some rescheduling drop-offs for the evenings and weekends.
Transport minister Derek Mackay confirmed on Friday December 4 that the bridge, which first opened in 1964 and crosses the Firth of Forth linking Edinburgh to Fife, would remain closed until after the new year on safety grounds after a crack was discovered in one of the support beams.
Major diversions are in place via the Kincardine and Clackmannanshire Bridges, around 20 miles away from the Forth crossing; a priority route for buses and HGVs has been set up via the A985, while LGVs and cars are being diverted via one of three alternate routes through Fife.
The Scottish Government has encouraged people to “plan their journeys carefully” but warned that there is “no doubt people will continue to experience disruption” while the Forth Bridge is closed.
Colin Forgie, head of logistics at Inverarity Morton, said the wholesaler is working to minimise disruption to deliveries.
“The announcement has obviously put a real spanner in the works because we’re leading up to the busiest time of the year for the licensed trade,” he said.
“To minimise the impact on our delivery schedules, we’ll be sending vehicles out earlier in the morning from both depots and will review plans daily and adapt where needed, looking at all avenues open to us to continue to provide an uninterrupted service.
“Our new Glasgow depot has capacity to run more deliveries from there and we would also consider delivering at night or over the weekend if absolutely necessary to ensure our customers aren’t left short.”
Jim Rowan, managing director of Dunns Food and Drinks, said: “We will, as a matter of urgency, be contacting all our customers who are affected by this closure and ensure that they are included in any decision to change deliveries.
“We may have to deliver outwith the rush-hour times and also offer Saturday and Sunday deliveries as an alternative.”
A spokeswoman for Wallaces TCB said: “As a business, we ensure that we are equipped to deal with eventualities such as this, and we have contingency plans in place to make sure that service levels are maintained over the busy festive period.”
Andy Willox, Scottish policy convenor at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Not only will this closure impact those that use the bridge to bring their goods or services to market, employers of all description will face serious disruption. While matters of safety should override other concerns, every effort should be made to minimise the impact on the economy.”