Pressure increases on Edinburgh Council after snow chaos

COUNCIL bosses were today facing growing pressure over their handling of the winter weather chaos after a day that saw the Capital's roads and public transport network freeze to a halt.

• Buses were cancelled yesterday and roads after further snow. Picture: Neil Hanna

The city was thrown into chaos after heavy snowfalls led to all buses being cancelled yesterday afternoon and left roads gridlocked for much of the day.

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Hundreds of drivers were stuck on the M8 for hours last night after an accident involving two lorries forced police to close the road westbound in the Hermiston Gait area.

City council chiefs have insisted they are doing all they can to combat the extreme conditions, which they say have seen up to 30 inches of snow fall in the city in the past week.

They are drawing up plans to bring in 70 rubbish skips to combat overflowing bins.

But opposition politicians believe more could have been done, with Edinburgh Labour leader Andrew Burns describing the situation in some parts of the city as "appalling".

There were calls for the Scottish Parliament's transport committee to investigate the disruption, which also saw Edinburgh Airport and the M8 closed and widespread delays on the railways.

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Lothian Buses suspended all of its services for what is believed to be the first time in its history, instructing drivers to return to the depot after more than three inches of snow fell yesterday morning.

For around four hours yesterday afternoon, there were no buses in the city centre.

Councillor Burns said it was time for the Lib Dem/SNP coalition to get a grip of the situation. He said: "Some areas of Edinburgh have now had no bus services for more than a week.

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Likewise, some primary schools have been completely closed for more than a week and the ongoing condition of many residential pavements and roads across the city is truly appalling.

"The council are just not grasping the gravity of this situation for many thousands of Edinburgh residents."

There were complaints residents in high-lying parts of the city, such as Swanston and Bonaly, had been virtually cut off.Tory councillor Jason Rust said he was forced to call in the Army to help with snow clearing at a sheltered housing complex in Colinton Road after the council refused to help.

He said: "It's ludicrous that the Winter Wonderland and farmers' market in the city centre are free of snow for tourists, but residents are struggling to leave their homes."

The treacherous conditions on the roads caused a number 43 double decker bus to slide around six metres down The Loan, in South Queensferry, though no-one was injured.

Paul Thomas, managing director for First Bus in the east of Scotland, hit out at the condition of the roads - and the behaviour of drivers.

He said: "We have many examples of where roads have been insufficiently gritted or are adequate for cars but not wide enough for buses.

"Another major issue is the parking/abandoning of cars and lorries in the snow."

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Taxi companies also reported waiting times of more than two hours yesterday as Edinburgh Central MSP Sarah Boyack called on Holyrood's transport committee to scrutinise Edinburgh's response to the cold snap.

She said: "This is the second successive winter that we have been hit by these sorts of conditions with considerable impact on businesses.

"The situation warrants detailed inspection by the transport committee to investigate what more can be done."

The council said it was working "around the clock" to keep main roads clear, with around 500 staff and contractors out on Monday working on category one and two routes.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city's environment leader, hit back at the criticism from opposition councillors, saying the city was working to a winter weather plan agreed unanimously by all councillors.

He said: "I totally understand the frustration of residents who have not seen their streets cleared, but it's very cheap politics by Andrew Burns and Jason Rust.

"We had 500 council staff working on Monday clearing snow. We've been working to a plan which was agreed in May, which was agreed unanimously by all parties.

"The intensity of snow and the number of abandoned cars is making it difficult for the buses to get through.

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"We've had every single snow plough and gritter working and I don't think we could have done more."

Full details of the plan to tackle the bin backlog are set to be revealed tomorrow.

Meanwhile, police are warning motorists to take extra care after a spate of snow-related car thefts.

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