FORTH Road Bridge officials have confirmed the structure will remain closed during this evening's rush hour.

Traffic on major West Fife routes was brought to a standstill this morning after the bridge was closed in both directions when a lorry driver ignored warnings urging high-sided vehicles not to cross.

Operators of the Forth Road Bridge said earlier this afternoon they were working "flat out" to have the crossing re-opened as soon as possible.

But within the last hour they announced it would remain closed during tonight's rush hour.

Police Scotland have confirmed that a 54-year-old man, who sustained minor injuries, has been charged in connection with the incident and it is hoped that the bridge will re-open to traffic with some restrictions later today.

Mark Arndt, Amey’s Operating Company Representative for the Forth Road Bridge said: “We’re still in the process of assessing the damage caused by the HGV but we know that there is around 40m of damaged steelwork on the central grillage. We have a full repair crew and supplies mobilised and ready to begin remedial works and we’re working flat out to reopen the bridge as quickly as possible.”

The HGV has been removed from the central reservation and on to the southbound carriageway and it is hoped repairs to the central reserve grill will start later today.

However that work and the re-opening of one lane in both directions is highly dependant on wind speeds remaining low, with Mr Arndt continuing: "It’s most likely that we’ll be able to re-open one lane of the northbound carriageway later today however we will need a crane to remove the HGV from the southbound carriageway, and this work is highly dependent on the prevailing wind speeds. We are continuing to monitor the forecast and have team mobilised and ready to respond as soon as it is safe to do so but it is very likely the bridge will remain closed through the morning peak."

"We know that closing the bridge has a serious impact on people’s journeys and it’s regretful that this situation has arisen."

Southbound traffic is currently being diverted from the M90 at Admiralty on to the A985 to Kincardine, while northbound traffic on approach to the bridge is being diverted off the A90 at Echline. They can travel along the A904 to join the M9 at Junction 2, or be turned around to travel to the M9 Junction 1A.

Traffic approaching both the Kincardine and Clackmannanshire bridges remains heavy in both directions, but drivers travelling eastbound are being diverted over the Clackmannanshire Bridge, with westbound traffic using the Kincardine Bridge.

The Clackmannanshire Bridge however has been closed to high-sided vehicles.

The public are being urged to avoid the bridge and surrounding area, or allow extra time during this evening's peak as, even if the Forth Road Bridge re-opens, restrictions will be in place to allow repairs to be carried out.

Ministers have been updated on the recovering operation and wider preparations for the wintry weather expected in Scotland for the rest of this week.

The Met Office has issued several Yellow (Be Aware) warnings for snow and strong winds through to Friday and, speaking after a meeting of the Scottish Government’s resilience team this morning, which was chaired by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “This morning we witnessed a very serious incident on the Forth Road Bridge and the consequences of ignoring travel advice during severe weather warnings. Luckily no one was seriously injured, however a great deal of disruption has been caused and it is an extreme but timely reminder of the importance of listening to advice and checking travel bulletins and VMS messaging before travelling.

“Once again the engineers and Forth Road Bridge team find themselves in the spotlight and I am hopeful they will be able to get the bridge reopened to traffic as soon as possible, albeit with restrictions in both directions likely. They are carrying out very challenging repairs in difficult conditions and the damage to the central reservation is significant.

“We should therefore be prepared for delays and disruption over the next few days as engineers assess the damage. Even if the bridge does reopen it is likely to be under traffic management with restrictions in place in both directions.

“More widely there are a number of severe weather warnings still in place for much of the country. The conditions will inevitably lead to some difficult driving conditions. Gritting teams will be out across the period to help keep the trunk roads moving.  Gritters will also be patrolling at strategic locations on the network to make sure that they can respond to any emerging issues.

“Key routes are being monitored across our network of weather stations and live cameras and the Traffic Scotland National Traffic Control Centre will take all of this information and send it out to road users through the website and Traffic Scotland twitter feed on a 24/7 basis.

“We would ask that people keep the conditions in mind when they are making their travel plans and leave plenty of time.  We are making as much information available as possible to allow the public to make informed decisions.  The winter treatments page on the Traffic Scotland website has details of which routes are being treated and our Trunk Road Gritter Tracker lets road users see where gritters have been out in the last 24 hours.

“Travel operators websites will have all of the relevant information on ferries, rail and air and Traffic Scotland has a webpage with all of these links.  The advice is to check before travel to make sure that you get to your destination safely.”

In addition to the chaos on the roads, West Fife communters also suffered misery on the trains this morning as a signal failure at Haymarket caused severe disruption to rail services.