THE design of the Queensferry Crossing has been called into question after a shock two-day closure caused chaos this week. 

The bridge that would supposedly never close was shut down from rush-hour on Monday evening until Wednesday due to ice plunging from cables onto vehicles below in what transport chiefs described as a “unique set of weather circumstances”.

But cars were also hit by falling ice in March last year, and pressure is growing to avoid a repeat.

David Ross, co-leader of Fife Council, said: “We have experienced this issue of ice falling from the Queensferry Crossing before and I am seeking firm assurances that this problem is being taken seriously and that action will be taken to prevent the problem occurring in the future. 

“Given that it’s not unusual for Scotland to experience periods of freezing and snowy weather, I want to know if this wasn’t taken into consideration in the design of the bridge.”

There was an own goal from the Tories though as interim Scottish Conservatives leader Jackson Carlaw branded the closure a “damning indictment” of the Scottish Government, despite the fact he was head of the committee that chose the design. 

Transport Minister Michael Matheson said bridge operators would monitor the crossing when similar weather conditions were expected and were taking steps to improve their response to incidents so that ice could be cleared, and risk minimised.

The Queensferry Crossing closed for the first time since it opened in 2017 after ice and snow fell from the bridge’s cables onto vehicles below. 

It was closed from Monday night until Wednesday morning.

Following a meeting with engineers on the bridge, Mr Matheson said a build-up of ice on towers and cables formed in “unique weather conditions” following Storm Ciara.

Eight vehicles were damaged before the crossing was closed southbound at rush hour on Monday. 

A few hours later, bridge operators Amey decided to close the structure entirely. 

There was no diversion over the Forth Road Bridge as only one carriageway is currently in use but it remained open as a public transport corridor and there are suggestions it could be used in future if a similar scenario arose. 

ScotRail and Stagecoach were asked to put extra services on and all commuters were advised to take public transport. 

Mr Matheson said he appreciated the patience of frustrated motorists, who were redirected across the Forth with a 35-mile diversion via the Kincardine Bridge, but insisted the safety of the travelling public was “paramount”.

“Engineers have been closely monitoring and studying the unique weather conditions causing this issue with a build-up of snow and ice on the Queensferry Crossing,” he said. 

“We are developing our understanding of these conditions, which involve a certain consistency of snow and/or sleet, wind speed and direction, interacting with fluctuating low temperatures. 

“This is leading to an ice formation on the bridge’s towers and cables at low temperature which has subsequently fallen from the bridge when thawed.”

The £1.35 billion Queensferry Crossing, which opened to traffic in August 2017, was expected to remain open in all weathers.

It’s understood that the bridge was built with more than 2,000 ice sensors as part of a system measuring the impact of weather on the bridge but that this is not expected to be fully operational until later this year.

The Scottish Conservatives raised questions about a design flaw on the bridge since three vehicles were hit by falling ice in March last year.

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser said: “It is not as if the problem with ice building up on the cables came as any surprise. 

“I was told in October that ice sensors would be installed on the bridge to alert engineers to the hazard of ice building up on the cables but it’s not clear whether this work has actually been done.

“At least that way drivers could be warned of the risks because, as it stands, a serious accident could well have resulted.

“Better still would be to find a long-term solution to the problem – looking at what has been done elsewhere in the world, with, for example, heated wires being installed along the cables to prevent ice build-up.

“We can’t afford to see a repeat of the chaos we have seen over the past 24 hours. This is an issue that should have been dealt with before now, and the Scottish Government need to get it sorted.”

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at road safety charity IAM Roadsmart, said: “I can’t believe that freezing rain and ice accumulation can be a surprise to anyone building the Queensferry Crossing. The problem should have been anticipated and a solution put in place.

“The problem has appeared on other bridges, I believe, including the Severn crossing, so the engineering solutions are available. 

“Further delay is unacceptable as the bridge’s unique value is supposed to be its all-weather capability.”

Mr Matheson defended the lack of action to stop ice falling from the bridge, saying its designers were planning to install ice sensors on the structure “in the coming months” but no contract had yet been awarded for the work to be done.

The minister also pointed out that the bridge had not closed during the “Beast from the East” in 2018 when a red weather warning was issued for snow and ice.

Dunfermline MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “I have requested an urgent meeting with Transport Scotland in order to gain a better understanding of why this situation has occurred and what measures will be implemented to address this issue. 

“It is important that when addressing the matter, Transport Scotland understand that any contingency plans must recognise the disruption caused to those who live in Kincardine and other villages along the A985 and other affected routes.”