Scotland

Transport minister 'sorry' over transport chaos

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Media captionTransport Minister Stewart Stevenson: "I'm sorry our response has not met the needs of everyone"

Scotland's transport minister has apologised after hundreds of motorists were stranded overnight after heavy snow brought chaos to main routes.

Stewart Stevenson conceded that the weather advice the authorities had been following "did not meet requirements".

And he warned that it could take some time before the roads were "back to anything approaching normal".

Some travellers were stuck in their vehicles for more than 15 hours as Scotland bore the brunt of the weather.

A fresh wave of ice and snow left several major routes - including the M8, M9 and A80 - impassable.

Police across the country's busy central belt warned people not to travel on Tuesday unless it was "absolutely essential" after temperatures plunged as low as -17C (1.4F) and hampered gritting efforts.

The deluge on Monday - which appeared to take the authorities by surprise - saw people sleep in their cars or abandon them as motorways and A roads clogged up.

On Tuesday morning, Strathclyde Police reported that the snow and ice on some roads was breaking the blades on snow ploughs.

Mr Stevenson told BBC Radio Scotland that the authorities had been caught out by the severity of the weather.

'Immediates problems'

Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: "We prepared for one set of weather yesterday morning - we had weather greater than we were ready for."

He insisted staff had been making "quite heroic efforts", but added: "Today we're now facing temperatures so low that salt is no longer working on the network.

Image caption Council staff work to clear the snow after temperatures plunged to -17 overnight

"We've actually seen snow ploughs damaged by the solidity of the ice on the M8."

Mr Stevenson went on: "We will continue to make very substantial efforts indeed, but I'm sorry it will take some time before we're back to anything approaching normal."

He also said the authorities would "have to look at the advice we had", adding that the weather forecast they were given "appears to have been different" from that of some other forecasters.

The minister said: "I want to know why that's the case because we can't have that happening again.

"That's a clear part of what we've got to look at to make sure that we improve."

And while he said the authorities "normally get it right", he added: "That's no comfort to the many people who have been stuck in their cars overnight in quite atrocious conditions."

Mr Stevenson continued: "I think there is an acceptance that the advice we were working on did not meet the requirements. We can't allow that to happen again."

He said the road operating companies and local councils had been "making terrific efforts" to deal with the conditions, but added: "It simply hasn't delivered for the people who are stuck there.

"I think it's right that they know that we are sorry for the very, very considerable difficulties we have created for people, and by and large we're very grateful for the very substantial tolerance and patience people have shown."

Mr Stevenson said the priority now would be to get major roads moving again and to "get people out of their cars".

When asked if he had considered his position, the Transport Minister said: "My focus this morning - and I'm sure this is what people will require of me, and of everyone else - is to resolve the problems.

"We will review our performance very carefully, once we've got the immediate problems dealt with.

"That I am sure is what people wish us to do."

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