OFFICIALS part of the £1.35 billion Queensferry Crossing project say the scheduled May opening is realistic but not a guarantee.

The replacement for the Forth Road Bridge reached 94% completion when it was expected to start taking traffic last month, but bad weather delayed construction.

The final touches are now being put in place with the penultimate section of the deck being lifted into position on Monday and with the remaining parts of the bridge to be joined together within the next fortnight.

Four concrete pours and the installation of the last 20 stay cables is still required, as well as 20,000 square metres of waterproofing.

Project leaders are also "optimistic" that the 1.7 mile structure will never have to be closed due to the high winds that affected the Forth Road Bridge earlier this month when a lorry was blown over in the dangerous conditions.

One key feature of the new bridge is the erection of a 35 kilometre wind barrier which would decrease pressure on HVG's crossing.

David Climie, Transport Scotland project director, told the Press: "We've a lot to do, but it's doable. We have a realistic programme. We can't guarantee it as we're in Scotland, but we should be able to get there."

He added that a contingency plan is in place in the event of an unlikely closure.

He said: "We've built in what we call an emergency crossover on both ends of the bridge, one at the south end near the Scotstoun Interchange, and one at the north end just at Ferrytoll. What that would mean is in the highly unlikely event that the Queensferry Crossing has to close, then within a few hours we could divert traffic back over the Forth Road Bridge rather straightforwardly by moving some barriers. It made sense to build that into the construction."

The project director was also keen to thank the workers on the bridge for their efforts during the project.

"They've performed fantastically," he said. "They're working in very difficult conditions. They have been extremely diligent and covered a wide range of trades. It's quite incredible. Over 10,000 people have worked on the job and I think every one of them has put their personality and effort into it. That's what these jobs are all about."

Michael Martin, project director of Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors, stated that low temperatures and rainfall could disrupt parts of the work but he believes the timeline remains "credible".

He said: "I can't give a guarantee as it would be foolish to do that because it involves things that I cannot control."

The Forth Road Bridge will be retained once the Queensferry Crossing - which remains under its £1.35 billion budget - opens and will be used only for public transport while providing the opportunity for cyclists and walkers to cross the Forth with minimum traffic.