Scottish Parliament pays out £7,000 after cars damaged by pop-up security gate

Elizabeth Smith Conservative List Member for Mid Scotland and Fife.
Elizabeth Smith Conservative List Member for Mid Scotland and Fife.
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HOLYROOD bosses have paid out more than £7000 in compensation for cars which have been damaged by pop-up security barriers at the Scottish Parliament’s underground car park.

The parliament said there had been five separate incidents when the barrier system – installed at a cost of £250,000 – had caused damage to vehicles. And other problems with the barriers mean they have been out of action almost one day in ten this year.

The parliament has now terminated the contract of the maintenance firm which was responsible for the barriers and appointed another company.

Tory MSP Liz Smith, herself a victim of the malfunctioning barriers, today called for assurances the system was now working properly.

Two years ago, her Ford Focus was left with two demolished front panels, a broken gearbox and damaged brakes after a barrier came up as she drove in.

Ms Smith, below, a former teacher at George Watson’s College and a former member of the Scottish Ladies Cricket team, said: “It was very frightening, but I was lucky. Had I accelerated a bit more quickly, it would have come up underneath me which would have potentially been much more 

“It was a pretty heavy impact and it knocked out the electrics, which meant I had to get out through the window, which fortunately was open. It’s just as well I’m a bit more athletic than some people might be.”

She said Holyrood staff had responded well and her car had been fully repaired by the parliament, but there had been similar incidents with other cars in the subsequent weeks and months. 
She said: “I know staff were frustrated that changes had supposedly been made, but the problem was still happening. I think we would all like an assurance it is now working properly.”

The pop-up barriers were installed at the car park entrance in Holyrood Road as part of a traffic light, swipe-card system to control access. At the time, car park users were issued with an eight-page guide on how to use the system.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the parliament revealed there had been 49 faults associated with the failure of the barrier since 2010. These ranged from electrical and mechanical faults to issues with the intercom unit, card reader problems, water ingress and “vehicle impact”.

It said water ingress issues had been rectified by the contractor at no cost to the parliament. But the parliament said it had spent £11,004 on reactive repairs since the system was installed in 2008.

“There have been five reported incidents where a failure of the barrier system resulted in damage to a vehicle. In total £7,088 has been paid in compensation since 2008.”

The parliament said problems with the barriers had resulted in them being operational only 92 per cent of the time this year.

And the £4000 a year contract for maintenance of the system with Surrey-based Allen Fencing had been terminated early. The initial contract was due to end in February next year, but could have run until 2018 with annual extensions.

Responsibility for the barrier has now been transferred to Mitie, which already provides maintenance for other parts of the parliament campus.

A Holyrood source said Mitie would be adopting a “more hands on” maintenance regime.