Additional measures to improve communication and keep Scotland moving in severe weather have been outlined by new Transport Minister Keith Brown.
The six-point plan was announced as it was revealed that a special multi-agency group will be established in the event of severe weather which will include representatives for Scotland’s eight Police forces, the trunk road Operating Companies, Transport Scotland and ScotRail.
The group will operate from Traffic Scotland’s Traffic Control Centre in Glasgow.
Mr Brown said:
“In light of last Monday’s extraordinary and exceptional weather event,a key lesson was the need to boost communications – both among all the vital agencies involved, and crucially with members of the public. Therefore, within the Resilience Committee we have established how the different agencies involved can work together better so that we minimise disruption to keep our transport networks moving.
“We have taken immediate action in consultation with operational partners to improve communications – both between the different organisations involved and crucially with the public. And the setting up of this multi-agency approach, including the police and bodies involved with both road and rail, helps us to speed up the flow of coordinated information to the travelling public.
“Forecasts for later this week predict more wintry weather, and we want to take every possible step to ensure that we keep Scotland on the move.”
- Storing additional salt and grit at key locations on the national trunk road network for quicker access
- Using traffic management resources to enable diversions where necessary
- Further improving the Operating Companies resources by adapting vehicles, such as landscaping vehicles, for clearing snow
- Using the option of removing trunk road and motorway central barriers to allow easy access to blocked or broken down vehicles
- Working with the Police to consider how we can stack HGVs if conditions deteriorate in order to keep traffic moving
- Providing central Scotland’s Trunk Road Incident Support Service (TRISS) emergency response vehicles with welfare kits of blankets and supplies
Yesterday John Swinney appeared before the Transport Committee to answer questions on the government’s response to the severe weather that brought chaos to Scotland’s central belt road network last Monday. Mr Swinney, who was flanked by Jim Barton Chief Road Engineer and Chief Constable Kevin Smith head of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, reiterated the Scottish government’s acknowledgment that communication had been less than satisfactory and that lessons had indeed been learned.
However Mr Swinney again pointed out that the weather forecasts had not been accurate as far as the accumulation of snow that fell was concerned, and he was backed by both Mr Barton and the Chief Constable who made similar observations.
In response to Labour MSP Charlie Gordon’s claim that the snow was indeed forecast and that perhaps the motorway should have been cleared Mr Barton said: “For the amount of snow that was forecast we wouldn’t expect to have to clear the motorway to plough.”
“As late as eight o’clock on Monday morning the Met office was still forcasting a fairly short bout of snow, I can quote exactly what they said to us at 08:01 on Mondau morning.
“Generally amounts of fresh snow will be in the region of 2-5cm, although in higher areas they may be 10cm. Behind the band of snow it will be generally dry and clear.”
After a rebuke over his conduct from Committee chair Patrick Harvey an animated Charlie Gordon then turned his attention to the Chief Constable who replied:
“The snowfall was not as was eventually transpired and to close that motorway network would have been impossible.”
Mr Barton and Chief Constable Smith now join Cosla Head Pat Watters and the Met office in a growing list of authoritative figures who acknowledge that the severity of the snowfall was not forecast. These public pronouncements will call into question the claims by BBC Scotland that their forecasts were indeed accurate.