Transport minister chairs meeting as Storm Barbara hits

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government's Resilience Team.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government's Resilience Team.

The Traffic Scotland National Control Centre is fully operational with Storm Barbara’s effects being felt over Scotland.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government’s Resilience Team this morning (Friday) where he was given an update on stormy conditions and their impact.

The Met Office is warning that Scotland will be subjected to severe weather for the rest of this week and into next week with strong winds, heavy rain and wintry showers all featuring. The worst of the conditions today are expected over the far north of the country and the Western and Northern Isles where an Amber alert is force today. The unsettled conditions are expected to remain with a further Amber alert for Storm Conor now issued for the far north on Boxing Day.

The effects are being felt on the transport system as people make their way home for the festive season. Operators do not take the decision to cancel services lightly but the safety of passengers and crew is the top priority.

On the ferries, as expected cancellations are in place and operators have been proactively contacting customers to make them aware. We are also expecting revised schedules and cancellations of flights to the islands. The situation is replicated on the railways, where a revised timetable is in place.

The trunk road network is coping well so far with some restrictions and maybe even temporary closures on bridges expected across the day. The Skye, Kessock and Dornoch crossings will be the most susceptible. The operating companies have specialist equipment in place to help deal with flooding and our TRISS teams are stationed across the network to assist with any debris on the network.

Links to all of the information have been pulled together on the Traffic Scotland website and people are being urged to check the latest on conditions before they go.

Responder authorities and essential services such as telecoms, electricity, water and gas in the areas affected are activating their plans to deal with the potential impacts and extra staffing and on call arrangements are in place over the festive period.

SEPA have seven flood alerts in place covering Caithness and Sutherland, Dumfries and Galloway, Orkney, Scottish Borders, Shetland, Skye and Lochaber and the Western Isles.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Ministers have been receiving regular updates on the impact of the severe weather across this week and I wanted to be at the Traffic Control Centre this morning to monitor preparations for myself.

“We are expecting the worst of the disruption today when winds are expected to reach 90 mph.

“Our transport operators and trunk road operating companies are working hard to keep services and roads running, safety has to be our top priority so we are seeing delays and cancellations to flights and ferries. There are some alterations to train timetables with full details on the Scotrail website.

“We have also seen more traditional winter weather with snow and ice on higher roads and our gritters and patrols have been out across the network - our gritter tracker shows where they have been in action. Our TRISS teams are stationed at strategic points on the network and our electronic signing is warning drivers of the likely hazards.

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Taylor Wimpey have confirmed directly with local Councillor Nathan Wilson that the organisation retains its commitment to building a park and ride at Shieldmuir Train Station. In response to recent enquiries made by Councillor Wilson, Taylor Wimpey have advised that engagement is taking place with Network Rail over the latter’s approval procedures and that once this process is complete, work will be able to begin on site. The developer has informed the Motherwell Councillor that during the period of investigation undertaken since the commencement of building work was delayed in January 2018, an unrecorded service chamber has been discovered on site. The project cannot move forward until further clarification is provided on the nature of the service chamber and Taylor Wimpey are in the process of commissioning a contractor to assess the situation. The developer’s initial judgement is that this is likely a redundant service. A senior representative of the organisation has also informed Councillor Wilson that a member of the Taylor Wimpey production team will be sent out to inspect the vacant land following a request he made at the beginning of 2019 for maintenance work to be carried out on site should construction of the park and ride remain some time away. Councillor Nathan Wilson said: “Taylor Wimpey have communicated to me directly that the park and ride facility is a project that the organisation remains committed to delivering. “However, it goes without saying that the lengthy delay is still very disappointing and frustrating. “An unrecorded service chamber has been identified on site and progress is unable to be made until this has been investigated. “Taylor Wimpey have relayed to me that an on-site inspection of the vacant land will take place and I hold to the view that maintenance work should be carried out in the short term to improve it’s current condition. “I will continue to engage with the relevant stakeholders and re-inforce to them the importance of the park and ride project locally. Motherwell and Wishaw CAB takes home 40 per cent of the prizes

“We would urge everyone to check the latest sources of information before they travel and keep in mind that the situation can change quickly. They should leave plenty time to get to where they need to be and the transport operators are doing what they can to help people arrive at their destinations and get any last minute festive shopping done safely.”

He added: “We shall be continuing to monitor the situation over the festive period including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day to make sure that the most reliable and relevant information is being communicated to people as early as possible.”