The Forth Road Bridge will remain closed until New Year, it has been announced.
The decision to keep the bridge closed until 2016 was taken following a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Committee after several engineering faults were identified this week.
Transport Scotland are considering implementing a dedicated bus route as well as passenger ferry services across the Forth while the bridge is closed.
Transport Minister Derek MacKay said: “The decision to close the Forth Road Bridge is not taken lightly. It is based on the expert opinion of the engineers who operate the bridge day to day and that of independent experts in the field.
“Every effort is being made to open the bridge as quickly as possible but safety is the main priority, however these works are weather dependent given the height and location of the bridge.
“We are aware of the potential economic impact, for strategic traffic in the east of Scotland and on people living in local communities.
Neil Greig, of the Institute of Advanced Motoring said: “There will be absolute chaos.
“However, I think it is good that they have told people it will be a long time so they can plan better for it.
“It will mean a completely different Christmas for people and companies. There will be disruption to deliveries and to the economy of the whole of the east of Scotland.
“Regular users of the bridge are used to short term delays, but this is unheard of.”
As well as causing severe delays and tailbacks, the closure of the bridge is likely to affect the running of local businesses.
A spokesperson for Pack & Send, a delivery company based in South Queensferry said: “I usually drive across the bridge every day but today I had to get the train. If the train wasn’t available then the store would have to close and it would impact on business.”
The Scottish Resilience Committee is planning to meet again over the weekend and a dedicated website for travel information will be created.
Commuters are being encouraged to consider their plans and only travel when necessary, however emergency vehicles will still be able to use the bridge in blue light situations.
The bridge’s southbound carriageway has been closed since Tuesday when steel work defects were discovered during an inspection. Vehicles using the bridge have had to do so with a contraband system in place on the northbound carriageway, causing tailbacks of 11 miles this morning.
Scotrail has warned that its’ trains are likely to be much busier than usual as a result of the bridge closure, especially at peak times and have advised commuters only to travel if necessary.