Scotland

Transport minister 'confident' over Christmas travel

A man clears snow and ice from the road
Image caption The freezing temperatures have made salt less effective at dispersing ice

Scotland's transport minister has said he is confident the country is geared up to get people home for Christmas.

Keith Brown said a six-point plan, that included putting grit at key points on the road network and using kilts to stop trains from freezing, was working.

His comments come as parts of Scotland endured temperatures of -20C.

The freezing conditions have also led to problems on the roads for motorists in parts of central Scotland and in Aberdeenshire.

Mr Brown, who is due to spend Wednesday evening in a gritting lorry in the Lothian area, said: "We are a northern European country that suffers some severe weather conditions and we have to accept that that's going to cause some traffic disruption, that's just part of life.

"What we have to do in government, and at other agencies, is to ensure that we keep the roads and other networks open as often as possible.

"I'm confident that the measures that we've put in place, particularly the six-point plan, are having a very good affect on that network now."

In addition to increasing access to grit supplies, the minister said 4,000 blankets and drinks had been set aside to give any travellers who become stranded because of the bad weather.

He added: "Our focus is people getting home for Christmas, whether it's planes, trains or automobiles.

"At times the problems are out with our control, for example in the south of England, but where we can control it, we're doing everything possible.

"And if you can't make your journey on the mode that you prefer, for example on rail, we'll make sure there is extra buses in place to make that final leg of your journey and you're back home for Christmas."

'More distance'

ScotRail has said its trains will run later between Glasgow and Edinburgh on Christmas Eve.

The firm said the extra trains had been added to help people who were travelling from England or further afield to make it home in time for Christmas.

The last Edinburgh Waverley-Glasgow Queen Street service will now be at 2230 GMT and its Glasgow-Edinburgh equivalent at 2200 GMT.

The additional services follow forecasts of further freezing temperatures across the country.

Image caption Keith Brown said the government was following a six-point plan to keep travellers moving

Steve Montgomery, ScotRail's managing director, said: "We are aware that people travelling to Scotland on Christmas Eve are likely to face delays.

"We want to do our bit to help get them home, so our trains to and from Edinburgh and Glasgow will now run later than usual.

"I would like to thank our staff for agreeing to extend their hours and help keep our customers' Christmas holiday plans on track."

Meanwhile, Central Scotland Police said black ice had caused at least four collisions in Stirling, Clackmannanshire and near Loch Lomond.

Ch Insp Donald McMillan said because the temperatures had fallen below -10C, the salt on the roads was less effective at dispersing ice.

He added: "Thankfully nobody has been seriously injured. Motorists need to slow down and leave a bit more distance than usual between them and the vehicle in front."

Police in Grampian have also urged motorists to drive with care after temperatures plunged to -20C in Altnaharra in the Highlands, -17C in Inverurie, and -10C in Aberdeen city centre.

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