Transport Minister apologises after motorists stranded

17 January 2018, 12:39

M74 snow

Scotland's transport minister has apologised after more than 200 motorists were stranded overnight on the M74 as heavy snow and ice caused treacherous driving conditions.

Dozens of schools have been closed in parts of Scotland, while public transport has been disrupted by the weather.

Police Scotland closed parts of the motorway in Lanarkshire in both directions due to wintry conditions for a number of hours overnight - with tailbacks stretching 12 miles southbound and seven miles northbound at one stage.

The Met Office has issued fresh amber "be prepared" warnings of heavy snow for southern Scotland and northern England on Wednesday into Thursday.

Mountain rescue teams were drafted in to check on drivers on the M74 overnight, many of whom were stuck in their vehicles for several hours.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf apologised to those stranded in their vehicles.

He said: "Let me give an apology to those commuters that would have been stuck for a number of hours in their vehicles, particularly on the M74, where it's been a really, really challenging night.

"We knew of this, we've been warning of it since last week, we've been patrolling with gritters across the entire network but the depth of the snow, the amount of snow and the widespread nature of it frankly made it extremely, extremely challenging across the country."

Sam Sykes, a surveyor from Biggar, South Lanarkshire, said he was stuck on the M74 for around 12 hours - from 6pm on Tuesday until around 5.30am on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old was travelling from Dalry in Ayrshire to Biggar after work.

He said: "It was really horrible as you would imagine. I was constantly checking the Traffic Scotland site for any updates but information was very limited.

He added: "I got a little bit of sleep but the combination of cold and not knowing if you were going to be moving again restricted that.

"The length of time, the cold and the uncertainty of when it would start again was the worst part."

Mat Jackson, 29, a product manager with Siemens, arrived home in Manchester at around 11.30am on Wednesday - having left Glasgow at 3.20pm on Tuesday.

He said: "Every time gritters went by you thought 'here we go' but the snow just came down harder, it was that thick you couldn't see in front of you."

He added: "I didn't want to sleep because the traffic might've started moving."

Police declared a critical incident and said that more than 200 people were stranded.

Transport Scotland said later the M74 was open in both directions but that conditions remained challenging after a "very difficult night".

Moffat Mountain Rescue assisted the operation to get the road clear by walking on the motorway and visiting drivers stuck in the tailbacks.

All schools in the Borders were closed due to the weather while 16 secondary schools, 58 primaries and 44 nurseries in the Highlands were shut.

Around 20 schools in Dumfries and Galloway and 28 schools and nurseries in South Lanarkshire were also closed.

The Met Office amber warning advises that travel disruption is likely, with a risk that some vehicles may be stranded.

The warning, which runs from 9pm on Wednesday until 5am on Thursday, says that 3-8cm of fresh snow is likely to accumulate widely, with up to 20cm over high ground.

Yellow "be aware" warnings of snow and ice for much of the country are valid until Friday.

More than a foot (36cm) of snow was recorded in Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway, Glenanne in Co Armagh had 23cm, while Tulloch Bridge in Inverness saw 21cm of snow overnight, with temperatures as low as minus 4C, forecasters said.

Elsewhere across England and Wales, the mercury did not reach above 2C.