TRAFFIC chaos is set to continue as the Forth Road Bridge will remain closed until New Year following the discovery of defective steelwork.

The decision to close was made after inspections carried out by specialist engineers and following advice and assessment of the fault by independent experts.

Repair work is already under way to repair and this will be done as quickly as possible with a view that it will be re-opened to traffic in January.

Additional rail capacity was put on overnight and a full travel plan is being prepared for the duration of the closure, including further additional rail services.

All other options are being explored including a dedicated bus corridor with park and ride facilities and passenger ferry services across the Forth.

Emergency vehicles will still be able to use the FRB in bluelight situations.

Transport Minister Derek MacKay said the decision was "not taken lightly".

He said: "Every effort is being made to open the bridge as quickly as possible but safety is the main priority. However these works are weather dependent given the height and location of the bridge. We are aware of the potential economic impact, for strategic traffic in the east of Scotland and on people living in local communities.

"This is an unprecedented challenge in the maintenance of the Forth Road Bridge. On balance following advice from engineers and independent experts, the full closure is essential for the safety of the travelling public and to prevent further damage to the structure of the bridge.

"The bridge operators Amey have a robust inspection team is in place and these defects are problems that have only occurred in the last number of weeks.

"We are taking every step we can to lessen the impact of this closure. Action now, will mean that any closure is much shorter than it might be if we waited."

Chartered engineer Mark Arndt, Amey's account director responsible for the bridge, added: "This is a complex engineering challenge. The component failure is in a difficult to access location and our response is also highly dependent on weather conditions.

"We continue to work around the clock on inspections, assessments and calculations along with the development of designs to effect the necessary repairs, while at the same time mobilising all the resources required to reopen the bridge as soon as is possible."

Keep an eye on the Press website for more updates as we receive them.