The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours will help operators make vital Christmas deliveries in Scotland following closure of the Forth Road Bridge.

The bridge, which carries 70,000 vehicles a day, is shut for emergency repairs to a crack in the steelwork and will not re-open until the New Year. Drivers have to make a 50-mile detour via the Kincardine Bridge.

The Department for Transport (DfT) last night announced that drivers’ hours would be relaxed until 6 January, allowing goods and passenger vehicle drivers who would normally have used the route to drive for 11 rather than nine hours a day.

Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Policy for Scotland, said: “The bridge closure makes it impossible in some cases for deliveries to be made on time so this relaxation will help Scottish industry, exporters and consumers in the busy run-up to Christmas.

“No time of year would be good for this to happen, but Christmas is particularly challenging and it’s bound to have a knock-on effect of delays and additional costs in the rest of the UK. We need to get the bridge open to HGVs as soon as possible to ease the disruption –this shows just how critical it is to our national transport infrastructure.”

FTA gathered information from its members over the weekend following the bridge closure and this was submitted to the DfT by Transport Scotland as part of its request for a relaxation of the rules. Members provided details about the impact of increased distances travelled and long queues at the alternative crossings. Tailbacks of around 11 miles have been reported at the Kincardine Bridge in the past few days.