Busiest rail and road routes shut as storms batter Lothian

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SOME of Lothian's busiest road and rail routes were closed today after severe weather returned to batter Scotland.

&#149 A tree was blown on to a car on the Royal Mile

The A1 and A68 were shut because of snow and ice. Landlsides closed the east coast main line between Dunbar and Berwick and the River Esk in Musselburgh burst its banks.

And some schools were also forced to close.

Heavy snow was reported on the A70 at Kirknewton. And there were hazardous driving conditions on sections of the M8.

Forecasters said the worst of the storms were likely to pass by the end of today, but they will leave a trail of destruction in their wake.

In the most dramatic incident, two men had a lucky escape when a tree crashed down on to their car on the Royal Mile.

High winds sent scaffolding crashing to the ground at the Commonwealth Pool while residents in Meadowbank spoke of a lucky escape from a flying plank.

An area of the High Street outside the Mitre Bar was also closed off last night after high winds sent loose tiles crashing down on to the street.

The Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho was forced to close after roads leading to the centre were flooded, and firefighters had to rescue a family whose car became stuck on a flooded road near Livingston. The passengers included one heavily pregnant woman.

A 50ft tree demolished a Vauxhall Vectra at the junction of the Canongate and Cranston Street at around 6pm last night, with onlookers telling of the passengers' dramatic escape through the car windows.

Eyewitness Stuart Wilson said: "The tree fell right on top of their car. They are very lucky to be alive. I think they immediately put their heads down and people managed to pull them out to safety."

Robert Will, manager of the nearby White Horse pub, added: "We heard a crash like two lorries crashing together. When I looked out, they were crawling out of the passenger's window."

Meanwhile, residents in Piershill Square West, Meadowbank, spoke of how scaffolding fell three storeys from flats after heavy gusts of wind. One man, who did not want to be named, said a wooden plank fell from scaffolding surrounding a chimney.

The Edinburgh to Berwick-upon-Tweed east coast mainline was closed due to two landslides, and a bus service would normally be in operation. However, the closure of the A1 due to heavy snow and ice has left the bus service stranded also.

Scotrail advised London commuters to travel through to Glasgow, and catch the west coast main line to Euston.

School closures include Brunstane Primary School in Edinburgh, Humbie Primary School and Yester Primary School in East Lothian, and Moorfoot and Tynewater primaries in Midlothian.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency said flood watches were still in place for Edinburgh and Lothian rivers.

It said the River Almond, Water of Leith, Braid Burn, and River Tyne had peaked overnight but were still high.

Edinburgh Airport was operating as normal this morning.

The council said it had been working overnight to clear and grit roads, starting with category one and two routes.

The Met Office said: "The snowy weather is expected to end today in Edinburgh, allowing conditions to improve to allow for "respite". "We are looking for it to be dry tomorrow, although there will be more rain on Saturday."