Traffic chaos as more snow sweeps across Scotland


BLIZZARD conditions brought Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians slithering to a standstill within the matter of only a few hours.

Paths, roads and pavement only just cleared through backbreaking work over the weekend soon yielded to a fresh layer of white.

If anything, it seemed as if residents and commuters were caught out by the sheer suddenness of the heavy snow.

And it wasn’t long before every major transport artery buckled, schools forced to close and workers left stranded.

The M8 was closed in both directions after a lorry became stuck in the morning rush hour.

The road remained closed until around 2pm causing widespread disruption

The A720 Edinburgh City By-Pass was also grid-locked by the snow with motorists were being advised by Lothian and Borders Police to avoid road travel unless “absolutely essential”.

A police spokesman said: “We have received a number of reports of cars and lorries experiencing difficulties in the snow, and we are advising motorists against driving unless absolutely necessary.”

Lothian Buses, praised for keeping on running during last week’s white out, were forced to suspend all routes on safety grounds.

At key locations, including The Mound, staff had to use spades to try and dig a double decker out of the snow after it was left stuck for an hour and a half.

The number 27 bus, which had been headed for Oxgangs, had to be dug out by the driver and two assistants from Lothian Buses.

Police were called to divert traffic and one officer helped direct the exhausted driver as he reversed the bus back down the hill and onto Princes Street.

The driver said: “We’ve been here for an hour-and-a-half just digging then trying to move it bit by bit.

“Earlier there was a queue of about 10 buses all lined up and going nowhere, but the police have managed to organise things and get everyone down safe.

“This road will have to stay closed until the gritting lorry gets here, it’s treacherous.”

A FirstBus bus also got into difficulty in South Queensferry as it attempted to make its way up a steep hill at The Loan.

It got stuck as it made its way around a steep bend.

One local said: “There were cars strewn everywhere. Because the bus is stuck no-one could get through.

“It’s following a JCB up the hill. The JCB is clearing the road as it goes. It’s definitely something you don’t see every day.

“It’s a bad bend. It looked like its wheel spun round and just missed the shops.”

All buses in Edinburgh were taken off the road at around midday.

Lothian buses called all their vehicles to the depots and FirstBus abandoned their service from the capital and West Lothian.

The Forth Road Bridge was closed southbound as cars and lorries got stuck in the treacherous conditions.

A lorry also jack-knifed at Echline roundabout, just south of the bridge at 11am, causing a huge queue of traffic.

At around 11am three cars crashed going southbound on the Forth Road Bridge adding to the travel chaos.

A Fife police spokesman added: “There was no request for an ambulance.”

A spokesman for Fife Police said that it was expected that it could take up to three hours to clear in the conditions.

A spokesman for the Forth Road Bridge said: “There are teams are out there and we will get it open as quickly as possible. It really depends on the weather.

“Motorists are advised to avoid travelling southbound until further notice.

“The bridge remains open northbound.”

Another lorry caused further chaos as it skidded on Junction 14 westbound coming out of Glasgow at around 1pm.

Cars piled behind the lorry waiting to get onto the snow-ridden M8.

One frustrated passenger said that attempts to get the lorry moving again were scuppered as rescuers were not well prepared:

He claimed: “They never had a shovel or any grit or salt and only had a bit of cardboard for it to drive on.

“There was a JCB plant next to the motorway and they had to throw a shovel over the back fence.

“They even managed to get it more stuck than what it was.”

It was more misery for air travellers as Edinburgh Airport announced it was closed until at least 6pm as they struggled to clear the runway after more heavy snowfall.

The German Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens was quieter than expected which traders put down to the airport closure meaning fewer tourists.

Claudia Ulaas, 28, from Cologne in Germany, runs a personalised mug stall called The Blue Noses.

She said: “The airport closing means the tourists who have been here a while and have spent all of their money are stuck here and we are getting no fresh trade.

“It’s not just my stall, I’ve noticed the whole market has been very quiet.

“When Edinburgh Airport reopens we will get new customers.”

In a bid to make her stall more appealing, Ms Ulaas had spent the day shovelling snow to make a safe path.

She said: “I’m supposed to go home on the 24th for Christmas but I’m getting worried now about whether I’ll make it.”

And the fairground in Princes Street Gardens was also hit by a drop in trade, with no customers brave enough to head up the Ferris wheel whilst the snow pelted down.

Douglas Taylor, 57, managing director of M&D’s, said: “It is definitely costing us money, there’s no doubt about it.

“It’s the cold temperatures keeping people away, but I would say there is never going to be a more picturesque time to see Edinburgh from the top of the wheel than now.

“I’ve been in this business since I was 16 and I know it will pick up, people can’t stay away forever.

“With these weather conditions there are old people needing extra care and people falling and breaking limbs – I think us losing a bit of cash is the least of anyone’s worries.

“I employ 75 members of staff here at this site and I have to bring them all in to shovel snow from the paths to keep the whole area safe.”

Rail services were also hit hard for a second week in a row, with the Edinburgh to Glasgow service still running on a reduced half hourly basis.

Many school children were also sent home in Edinburgh after conditions made a turn for the worst.

Around seven schools, four nurseries and all special schools in the capital shut their gates causing parents to be plunged into more childcare uncertainty.

But a Met Office spokesman said that Monday was to see the worst of the weather for the week and conditions were set to improve.

He added: “Monday is the worst day for snow in that area. The snow will begin to travel southwards.

“It will disappear into Monday night and Tuesday but the cold temperatures will continue.”

Some places in Scotland have seen 20-30cm of snow fall within the last week.