FALLING ice hit a roads maintenance vehicle as newly installed sensors failed to stop danger to motorists on Scotland's showpiece road bridge for the second time in seven weeks, it has emerged.

The Herald can reveal that staff from the Transport Scotland appointed roads maintenance firm BEAR Scotland escaped unharmed after ice fell onto their vehicle on the Queensferry Crossing.

It comes two months after it was announced 'early warning' sensors had been installed and transport secretary Michael Matheson suggested lessons had been learnt after ice falls in February, last year.

It is the third winter in a row that falling ice has plagued the £1.35bn crossing and the third time it has been forced to shut down.

It was only when the ice fell that the bridge connecting Edinburgh and Fife was closed to vehicular traffic in both directions at 4.00am on Thursday due to what was initially described as "ongoing weather conditions, including falling ice and snow". It was fully re-opened to traffic at 10.10 am - over six hours later.

READ MORE: 'Shambles': Anger as Queensferry Crossing forced to shut for second time in seven weeks due to ice fall

It has been confirmed that the closure happened after a BEAR Scotland vehicle was truck by falling ice.

It came after BEAR Scotland sent out additional ice patrols in response to "the weather forecast".

They said the bridge was closed "when staff observed ice falling from the structure".

Maintenance officials say that "our operatives inside were unharmed".

Local MSPs in and around Fife raised concerns about the development and Scottish Conservative Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Dean Lockhart described it as a "national embarrassment".

HeraldScotland:

Despite moves to re-open the Forth Road Bridge to motorists as an emergency, it was not available, and drivers were warned by Bear Scotland not to use it.

Since Scotland's flagship road bridge Queensferry Crossing opened in the summer of 2017, general traffic such as cars and HGVs have been banned on the Forth Road Bridge which is now being used solely as a public transport corridor.

The crossing, the result of the biggest infrastructure project in Scotland in a generation, was shut for four hours on December 4 after patrol staff noticed ice falling.

After that officials decided to revisit re-opening the Forth Road Bridge to cars as a contingency as it again tried to deal with issues of falling ice on Scotland's newest road bridge connecting Edinburgh and Fife last week.

Mr Lockhart said: "Key workers in Fife and Edinburgh rely on the crossing being operational the whole year around, and to be faced with a second closure in as little as two months is very disruptive.

"It is clear the Scottish Government still hasn’t found a solution to the ice problem despite having installed sensors and for a bridge which was deemed ‘the best in the world’ by the First Minister, it better find one soon."

Fellow Conservative Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser added: "Another day, another Queensferry Crossing closures. Furious constituents in Fife already getting in touch to vent their anger. What a shambles."

HeraldScotland:

Nicola Sturgeon and The Queen at the official opening of the Crossing.

Fellow MSP Liz Smith added: "It is a very serious concern that the Queensferry Crossing ice problems have still not been fixed. Key workers in Lothian and Fife especially desperately need that bridge to be open in the current circumstances."

BEAR Scotland’s south east unit bridges manager, said: “The safety of bridge users comes first and we therefore made the decision to temporarily close the Queensferry Crossing when we identified a risk of falling ice.

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this closure.”

READ MORE: Transport bosses admit an ice prevention system for Queensferry Crossing were dumped as too expensive

Transport Scotland was previously criticised for lack of action after reports of ice falling on vehicles in February, last year.

The £1.35bn Queensferry Crossing was expected to remain open in all weather conditions.

When the bridge to traffic in August, 2017, it was heralded by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as "a symbol of a confident, forward-looking Scotland" and a "feat of modern engineering".

Before it opened, bridge operators said the 3.5m high wind shields, would "almost entirely eliminate the need for closures".

In February, last year, eight vehicles were damaged before the crossing was closed for the first time since it opened in 2017 on safety grounds.

Video by the Institution of Civil Engineers on the Queensferry Crossing

It led to lengthy tailbacks as drivers take a 35-mile diversion, crossing the Kincardine Bridge.

Calls were then made for an urgent investigation into ice issues on the 1.7 mile publicly funded bridge which arose 11 months after giant icicles smashed the windscreens of three cars after they snapped off from cables on the crossing.

Mr Matheson had been previously been criticised for suggesting that an earlier incident was "a result of a very specific set of weather conditions" and was unlikely to recur.

But in October, 2019 he said new sensors would be installed.

And at the start of last month it was announced the ice sensors had been installed to provide an "early warning".

READ MORE: Farce Road Bridge: Disbelief as Queensferry Crossing forced to shut yet again despite new ice sensors

As new winter measures including ice sensors were announced last month, Mr Matheson said: "Our teams always look to learn lessons from previous winters and have once again worked hard throughout the year to ensure we are well prepared for when the worst of the weather arrives.

"This ranges from the use of new technology, like ice accretion sensors and motorway access units, to trialling new treatments and adding more gritters to our fleet."

Transport Scotland now says that research and development work is underway to explore a method or technology to "mitigate the problem of ice build-up on the bridge in the longer term".

At the time of the February incident, Mr Matheson said: "I recognise the frustration of travellers today, and I very much regret that the bridge has been closed for the first time, but it is a bridge that's given us much greater resilience than the old Forth Road Bridge.

"There's now been something like 30 occasions when we would have had only partial or no use of the Forth Road Bridge, whereas the Queensferry Crossing is continuing to function."

The Scottish Government then confirmed that it was planning to install ice sensors on the structure "in the coming months".