Wild winter closes M8 for second night


TRANSPORT chiefs ordered Scotland’s busiest motorway be closed for a second night tonight (tues) as plunging temperatures hampered efforts to re-open the M8.

Bear Scotland told Lothian and Borders Police that it was still too soon to risk even a partial re-opening.

Instead the Westbound carriageways between junctions one and five remained shut as a fleet of ploughs and gritting teams attempted to smash their way through the sheer ice which had formed on snow.

The decision came only hours after Lothian and Borders Police helped free some 30 stranded lorries after helping hundreds of car drivers to safety the previous evening after white out conditions reigned chaos.

Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “We have been informed by Bear Scotland that following an assessment of the situation, the M8 west bound between junctions one and five will not re-open tonight.

“A further assessment will be carried out by Bear Scotland tomorrow morning.”

They added: “It is an improving situation locally and most main roads across the Force area are passable with care. But please check that your chosen route is viable.

“We continue to ask drivers to consider whether their journey can be delayed or if there are alternative methods of reaching their destination.

“If they feel they have to head out, we urge them to plan ahead and make sure that the routes they intend to use are clear and not affected by any delays.

“They must also drive carefully and be alert to the weather conditions, which indicate that temperatures will drop.

“Please take sensible precautions to ensure your own well-being, as well as that of any passengers.”

Drivers were also being asked to consider the impact of abandoning cars on roads preventing the gritting fleet from doing its work, and restricts access for emergency vehicles.

Chief Constable David Strang, who chairs the Strategic Co-ordinating Group for Lothian and Borders,  said: “It is clear that everyone has been working very hard to continue to provide key services.

“Most schools are open, more people are able to get to their work and a real effort has been made to ensure bus services continue to operate within the Force area.

“All local authorities are committed to extending their snow clearance operations to some side roads.

“The priority remains with the main routes.

“I would encourage everyone to think of vulnerable people within their communities who might be in need of support at this time.”

City of Edinburgh Council meanwhile said it had suffered the worst snowfall since 1963.

They said an army of grit teams were working round the clock to try and clear the roads.

City fathers were heavily criticised after buses became stuck and were forced to withdraw even in the centre of Edinburgh.

But the council said it had gritted main routes four times in 24 hours after being told to expect two hours of snow – when seven hours actually fell.

A spokesman said: “Last year, we had 10 inches of snow over four weeks in the city.

“So far this year, we have had around 18 to 30 inches across the city in just over one week alone.

They said some 600 Council workers and contractors were working to get roads clear, with 22 gritters and 12 JCBs clearing the roads.

Euan Kennedy, Road Services Manager at the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Our staff and contractors have been working really hard over the last few days to keep the city moving.

“It is hard, labour intensive work as the snow often has to be excavated before it is ploughed.

“We would urge the public to be aware that we are doing the best we possibly can in extreme circumstances.

“The public should be reassured that we have record numbers of staff out clearing the streets, working as quickly as they can.”