COMMUTERS face the threat of travel chaos from “treacherous” conditions on their return to work today as winter arrives with a vengeance.
Large parts of Scotland were last night on amber alert, with up to 5cm of snow expected to fall across the Central Belt and up to 15cm on high ground.
The wintry blast follows hazardous conditions on the roads which contributed to a spate of crashes yesterday.
Transport minister Keith Brown warned travellers of a “potentially testing” return to work with snow and ice forecast for many areas of Scotland today.
The Met Office issued amber alerts – meaning “be prepared” – for the whole of Scotland apart for Grampian, Orkney and Shetland, which are on yellow alert – or “be aware”.
The forecasters said: “Sleet and snow showers will last through Monday, bringing accumulations of snow to some areas. Icy stretches are likely to form on untreated surfaces. The public should be aware that this could lead to travel disruption in places.”
Higher areas could bear the brunt of the snowfall in the Central Belt, such as East Kilbride, Lanark, Biggar and Shotts in Lanarkshire. Temperatures are due to plunge tonight to -5C in rural south and west Scotland, and -2C in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Gritter patrols have been stepped up following a meeting of the Scottish Government-led multi-agency response team yesterday, which includes police, rail firms, trunk road maintenance companies and the Met Office.
Mr Brown said: “We’ve already seen some wintry weather across much of Scotland and, while it is not as severe as this time last year, we cannot afford to be complacent.
“With some treacherous icy conditions forecast overnight, I will be in the control centre tonight and tomorrow to stay up to speed with preparations.”
The minister stressed that drivers must play their part by checking forecasts and travel websites, and allowing extra time for journeys.
Police also urged drivers to make way for gritters, whose amber lights flash when they are spreading salt.
Assistant Chief Constable Allan Moffat, of Central Scotland Police, speaking on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland, said: “With snow and sleet forecast for many parts of the country, I would encourage all drivers to listen to their local weather forecast and adjust their normal driving to work time according to the conditions they are faced with.
“This will be particularly important with heavy traffic expected for the Monday morning rush hour period. Motorists will be facing a different danger to that which they have experienced recently.
“I would ask people to remember that both damp and snow- affected roads can hide the hidden danger of black ice, particularly in shaded areas. Our message is very much aimed at asking motorists to be aware of the dangers and travel with extra caution.”
Drivers across much of Scotland faced hazardous conditions yesterday, including on the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow, where a lorry jack-knifed. The M90 was closed near Kinross after a horse trailer overturned, while at least seven people were taken to hospital following crashes across the Highlands.
Many roads across the Highlands and Aberdeenshire were affected by snow and ice, including the A9 between the Drumochter pass and Inverness, the A90 north of Aberdeen, the A82 in Glencoe and the M74 near Beattock. There were also ice warnings on the Forth and Tay road bridges.
Edinburgh City Council said it would be clearing and gritting “category one carriageways”, such as bus routes and those to hospitals and care homes, through the night after operating 21 gritters and two lorries yesterday, which spread 178 tonnes of salt.
Mini tractors were also tackling priority pavements, such as in the city centre and on higher ground on the south and south west edge of the city.