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Courier firm receives assurances from Scotland's transport minister PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 07 January 2011

New Transport Minister Keith Brown has reached out to Scotland’s biggest independent courier firm after bosses criticised his handling of the latest icy road problems.

He made a personal phone call to Eagle Couriers director Jerry Stewart, after the delivery firm boss accused the Government of reneging on a promise to resolve Scotland’s M8 woes.

Mr Stewart is one of three directors at the Scottish-based courier, where the fleet of delivery drivers make up to 2000 journeys on the M8 every week.

Last night he said: “Nobody in Scotland knows the M8 better than we do. So it is reassuring that the Minister listened to our criticisms then contacted us directly to discuss them.

“He explained to me exactly why the gritting of the M8 failed to stop it from being closed by black ice on Wednesday.

“He assured me he is not taking his foot off the gas on the issue of keeping roads open and is still spending nights in the transport centre.

“However, he accepts there are still improvements to be made and that the Government must do better.”

Mr Stewart was contacted by the SNP Minister after speaking out publicly about Wednesday’s three hour closure of the M8 due to black ice. At the time he said: “It is unacceptable to have our main motorway closed at any time. This is a monumental blunder.”

Eagle Couriers has 30 years’ experience and employs more than 100 staff – so the closure of Scotland’s main road artery is crippling to business, including emergency deliveries for the NHS and the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service.

After Thursday’s clear-the-air phone call, the minister was so impressed with the depth of Eagle Couriers’ specialist knowledge, that he gave Mr Stewart his personal mobile phone number and urged him to flag up future concerns.

Mr Stewart added: “He appreciated our experience of the transport industry. I also explained we have been involved in a number of traffic monitoring schemes, including at major road works at Auchenkilns Roundabout, the Raith Interchange and the Glasgow Airport viaduct.

“He gave me his mobile number and left it open for me to contact him at any time to let him know about areas where we think further improvements can be made and also to flag up repeated problems which do not seem to be getting addressed.”

Other points covered during the 10 minute conversation included:

  • The minister said Wednesday’s problems were caused because rain interrupted gritting at a crucial time. A fleet of gritters were on the M8 between midnight and 2am on Wednesday, preparing for a 9am snow predicted by weather experts. Treating the stretch between Glasgow and Edinburgh takes at least two hours. However, the treatment is rendered ineffective by heavy rain, which fell from 2am. By the time rain cleared and gritters were back on the road, they were caught in the rush hour build up.
  • When challenged about Scotland’s inability to cope compared with other northern countries, the Minister said he had experienced the situation in both Norway and Canada. He explained those countries have very predictable patterns of extremely cold weather and snowfall. However, in Scotland, the temperature generally hovers slightly above or slightly below freezing point, making sudden, extreme conditions much more difficult to predict or plan for.
  • Mr Stewart pointed out that when an English motorway is closed by weather, only specific regions of the country suffer. However, when the M8 closes the whole of the Scottish economy is adversely affected. The minister acknowledged it was unacceptable for the M8 to close and told Mr Stewart: “We must do better”.

Mr Stewart added: “He took our criticism on the chin and I am impressed that he has made the effort to reach out to transport sector professional like us.  It is a more positive sign than we have seen up until now.

“However, now he must deliver on his promises and ensure that everything is done to ensure a road like the M8, which is crucial to virtually every aspect of Scottish life, is not closed by weather problems again.”

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