Published: 15/12/2017 13:00 - Updated: 15/12/2017 09:38

Communities cut off as big freeze hits

Written byHector MacKenzie and Donna MacAllister


Tore Roundabout
A car on its roof north of Tore Roundabout after it came off the road on ice.

OUTRAGE over the state of roads and pavements the length and breadth of Ross-shire was growing yesterday as people shared their experiences of facing treacherous conditions while trying to go about their daily lives.

Highland Council and trunk roads maintenance operator Bear Scotland came under fire as stories emerged of communities essentially cut off from the rest of the world, schools struggling to open and elderly people left prisoners in their own homes.

One woman spoke of her fear for her six-months-pregnant daughter negotiating ice-coated pavements to get to work in Tain while others spoke of feeling cut off and let down.

The Journal used its Facebook page to gauge the experience of readers and within minutes yesterday was inundated with heartfelt responses from across the county.

Christine Davies, of Diabaig in Wester Ross, accessed by a steep, winding road, told us yesterday: "It will be a week tomorrow that we have been unable to get out of the village. We have one road in – God forbid that the emergency services are needed.

"It’s absolutely shocking, and leads me to believe that the Highland Council doesn’t want rural communities anymore. We are obviously a pain in their backside.  What with school closures, no public transport, shocking repairs to the roads – if you can call them repairs – no houses for youngsters, I sense the second Highland clearances happening courtesy of Highland Council."

Michelle Lawrence, from Conon Bridge, said: "Our drive to work this morning at 7.30am was atrocious. The main A9 from Conon Bridge to Tore was completely treacherous and had not been gritted at all – you could see vehicles sliding about and you couldn’t go over 35mph without feeling the car lose control. Very scary and not safe at all. It’s bad enough that the side roads and pavements have not been touched but this is a very busy main road so I find it unacceptable that people are putting themselves at risk when they are forced to drive on it in that bad a condition. I just hope there are no accidents or that anybody is hurt because of it. I’ve personally not seen one gritter in and about Conon Bridge since this icy spell started so they are very noticeable by their absence.

"I’m sure the Highland Council will be full of useless excuses as ever but I feel this level of service from the roads department is unacceptable."

Lorraine Coles: "It seems like pavements not been done at all. They are like ice rinks. I feel sorry for elderly folk who can’t get out. It’s a disgrace."

Deborah Ritchie, of Dingwall, said: "Shocking! No pavements been cleared unless done by ourselves and grit bin empty!"

Ian Sutherland said: "The roads and pavements around Alness are shocking this year. A lot of older people would have suffered over the last week or so with walking on them. Very treacherous indeed – what are wee paying our taxes for?"

Nicola Robertson said: "The main Muir of Ord to Tore road didn’t get gritted or cleared at all."

Caroline Thomson wrote: "Gritter just been up to Tulloch Square in Dingwall but no evidence of grit being dropped. This is people’s lives that are being put at risk. Our council tax went up but vital services have been cut."

Val Hodgkinson wrote: "Terrible. Main roads okay but smaller side roads are sheet ice. Council workers, firefighters and ambulance staff are struggling to move their vehicles. No pavements gritted either."

Rob Johnston said: "Horrendous in Tain, forced to walk on the road for the majority of the time!"

Louise Stewart of Alness said: "I think the roads and pavements are horrendous. I’m disabled I use sticks and a mobility scooter and I’ve not been able to get out. What are they getting paid for?"

Morvern Dunbar said: "Disgraceful! My daughter is six months pregnant and is terrified when walking to work. Tain is horrendous, we have to grit ourselves!"

Jess Bond, of Tain, said: "Having to walk home from work this morning on the roads because it’s that icy!"

Lynsey Stewart said: "Our school in Strathconon is shut for the third day this week due to the teachers not being able to get here due to poor road conditions!"

Lesley Dixon said: "It’s awful I feel for the children having to try getting to school it’s like a bottle out there in Alness. Also the poor older folk."

Flora Thomson said: "For the first time in 33 years I didn’t get woken up by the gritter going past my house at around 6.30 am. I stay at Navity Farm Cottages, Cromarty the road past me leads to the Rosemarkie transmitter. All I can say is I’m glad no one up here needed an ambulance in an emergency . Absolute disgrace Highland Council especially after the big show on TV news of gritters all lined up ready for action to keep the roads clear all show no action . Spot the gritter competition this winter I think rare species they are."

A Highland Council spokeswoman said: "People have this expectation that the council can grit every road across the entire network area. What we do is grit within the available budget and the policy and the resources."

Responding to numerous complaints about yellow grit bins lying empty in Ross-shire communities, she said the council had invited members of the public by a media press release issued in October to get their orders in for grit bins if they wanted them on their streets. This can still be done by contacting the council, she said.

She added: "We have the longest road network of any council in Scotland and unfortunately it is not possible to treat every road at the same time. That’s why we have a priority system to treat the areas in greatest need first.

"Primary routes are strategic, regional, sub-regional and link roads which serve the larger communities and permit the majority of road users to travel across the region. They are gritted from 6am to 9pm Monday to Saturday, 7am to 9pm on Sundays and public holidays.

"Secondary routes are roads connecting smaller communities to the primary network link and service roads within the larger urban settlements. Service and school bus routes not covered by the primary network (on bus routes, gritting will not necessarily be completed before buses start their journey).  They are treated between 6am and 6pm Monday to Saturday

"‘Other routes’" are minor rural and local access roads, residential roads in urban settlements. These roads will be treated as resources permit."

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