THE Queensferry Crossing has helped Fife motorists avoid the "immense disruption" of roadworks that would have caused travel misery for months.

It's also saved the public purse £7.8 million as a year-long project on the Forth Road Bridge can now go ahead without major traffic congestion, a sky-high cost to businesses and huge diversions for HGVs.

The replacement of the older bridge's main expansion joints was due to start nine years ago, at a cost of £13.7m, but work spanning 12 months and costing £5.9m will now begin on Monday, November 12 (see page 5).

And as the Forth Road Bridge is now a public transport corridor, and not carrying 24 million vehicles a year, there will be no affect on journey times across the river.

Mark Arndt, of the Forth Bridges operating company, Amey, said: “The main expansion joints have exceeded their design life and are overdue for replacement, however, we’ve been monitoring them closely over the years to ensure the continuing safety of bridge users and we’re now ready to replace them without any disruption to traffic.

“The Queensferry Crossing has already delivered a major benefit by sparing the public the immense disruption that would have been caused if these works had gone ahead in 2009.

"It will also allow us to deliver these works at a significantly reduced cost and avoid the economic impact of an extended closure to HGVs, such as we saw during the emergency repairs of winter 2015-16 when the Road Haulage Association estimated the cost to the industry at over £600,000 per day."

The main expansion joints were originally scheduled to be replaced in 2009, in what Amey said "would have been by far the most disruptive maintenance project in the bridge’s history".

The project would have seen temporary overbridges built across the joints, to keep traffic moving, but the bridge would have been down to single lanes on each side and HGVs would have faced a 35-mile diversion via Kincardine Bridge.

When the Scottish Government confirmed, in December 2008, their timetable for the construction of the Queensferry Crossing, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority took the opportunity to postpone the works.

The main saving is largely attributable to the Queensferry Crossing being available to carry traffic, meaning expensive overbridging works are no longer required.

Work will start with the replacement of the joints on the east footpath, which will be closed from November 12 until late January.

The west footpath will be open for cyclists and pedestrians.

Work on the much larger joints in the main carriageway is expected to begin in late January and traffic will be restricted to a single lane in each direction for most of 2019.

Joints on the west footpath will be replaced when the carriageway is complete.