Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has commended the tolerance of Scottish motorists who he said had endured atrocious conditions and experiences as a result of the freak weather that hit the Scottish central belt at rush-hour yesterday.
Mr Stevenson said he was sorry for the difficulty that had been created and also described the response and efforts of emergency services and others as “first class” as they struggled to cope with the travel chaos brought about by the prolonged heavy snowfall.
Mr Stevenson was speaking following the nightmare endured by thousands of Scottish motorists as cars and lorries were left stranded causing a gridlock that prevented gritters and snowploughs from passing in order to clear the roads.
Yesterday a spokesman for Glasgow Council explained that gritters had already gritted roads prior to the day’s rush-hour traffic but that heavy rain had fallen prior to the snow and washed most of the grit away. The rain then turned to snow at rush-hour and caused traffic to grind to a halt – by then it was impossible for ploughs or gritters to make a second pass.
The SNP’s Transport Minister said there had been a divergence in the weather advice authorities had been acting on and by the time they realised the extent of the conditions the rush hour commute was already on the roads and beginning to back up.
Mr Stevenson said:
“We prepared for one set of weather yesterday morning, we had weather greater than we were ready for.
“We didn’t, as we would have wished to do, tell people not to be travelling at that time. If we would have had fewer cars on the road our recovery would have been faster and fewer people would have been affected.”
Thousands of motorists spent over ten hours at a virtual standstill and hundreds were stranded overnight as the conditions worsened and emergency services struggled to cope. Some drivers abandoned vehicles for shelter as it became clear that the timing and severe elements had contrived to create a perfect storm. In towns across the central belt pedestrians helped push stranded vehicles as queues of cars and lorries brought the road network to a virtual standstill.
Mr Stevenson reiterated that the emergency services had given a “first class response” but that their efforts could not free everyone. The Minister offered his gratitude to motorists who he said had shown substantial tolerance.
Mr Stevenson said:
“I think our staff have delivered a first class response, what it hasn’t been is a response that has enabled people to be unlocked from the gridlock that there is on many parts of the network.
“I think local authority workers and road operating companies have been making terrific effort but it simply hasn’t delivered for the people who are stuck there and I think it’s right that they know we are sorry for the very, very considerable difficulty that has been created for people.
“We’re very grateful for the very substantial tolerance and patience that people have shown.”
Asked by Radio Scotland presenter Gary Robertson if he would consider his position as a result of his department being “caught off guard” the Transport Minister said that his focus was to resolve the problems but that the department would review its performance very carefully.
Anger as pupils sent home early
In Glasgow there was anger as many children were forced to make their way home from school without adequate clothing.
The pupils were sent home early after the local authority issued a directive allowing head teachers to close schools at 2:00 PM. Primary pupils were kept in school until parents had arrived, however many secondary pupils found themselves having to make their way home in the dreadful conditions wearing clothes they had arrived in, many having being taken to school by car.
Youngsters could be seen walking through Glasgow in flimsy clothing as the heavy snow continued to fall.