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Charles Bannerman: 'City traffic flow is barely viable under ideal conditions'

By Charles Bannerman

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Wintry weather was impacting various modes of transport this week.
Wintry weather was impacting various modes of transport this week.

First of all, let’s hear it for Highland Council’s under-appreciated and sometimes unfairly maligned gritter crews who work long hours in a tough job, because they are in no way responsible for the latest motorised mayhem that followed Monday’s snowfall in Inverness, writes Charles Bannerman.

It’s not their fault that too few gritters appeared too late to prevent another episode of chaos which quickly materialised across the city, apparently because of insufficient resources or poor command and control, or both.

An essential trip forced me into the car mid-afternoon and I was instantly confronted with a Southern Distributor Road (SDR) redolent of Dancing On Ice, and literally so in the case of some vehicles, as packed queues struggled, perilously and snail like, in opposite directions. The vehicular carnage was made worse still at sets of lights which were turning red every few seconds despite the complete absence of pedestrians, a weeks-old unresolved SDR problem that robbed ever-lengthening queues of any modest momentum they might have had.

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Unfortunately, Tower Road’s white knuckle descent towards Culloden, no more challenging than the way up, then produced an even lower coefficient of friction, and that horrible dilemma.

“Just how firmly can I press this brake pedal while still avoiding another Skaters’ Waltz?”

I could go on, but readers in other parts of the city will inevitably have their own “white hell” stories of untreated roads, while social media is teeming with anecdotes not unlike mine and even of pretty unpleasant shunts.

Highland Council need to tell taxpayers exactly why there’s this level of disruption, even on major arteries, when snow is forecast.

If it’s a case of resources, then once again they need to balance this against firework displays, fatuous art projects, fairy lights for the town house and finery for the Provost, and please don’t invoke the excuse of Common Good Fund ring-fencing.

It’s clear that the longstanding mess which is Inverness traffic flow is barely viable under ideal conditions and simply can’t cope with challenges. I recently heard of someone trying to drive home to Kirkhill during a closure of the Kessock Bridge and the journey took almost five hours.

Then there’s the SDR, clearly destined for even more traffic as a result of council anti-motorist measures like Academy Street and Millburn Road. How will it cope when it’s black, never mind white? The said anti-motorist measures also assume that battalions of drivers will instead be jumping on bikes. On a day like Monday?

Charles Bannerman.
Charles Bannerman.

It used to be a standing joke in the Highlands that the central belt shuts when there’s half an inch of snow on the M8. Well, justification for such hubris has now disappeared like – dare I say? – snow off a dyke and the joke is now on the Highlands with rural roads, also a high priority, equally poorly served.

My winters of driving in Inverness include 1979 when Kingsmills Park failed 28 consecutive pitch inspections and snow was ploughed to head height up Leys Brae. The next few were almost as bad before 1995 produced a protracted freeze and 2009 and 2010 both left us knee deep.

But road travel continued, and was a lot easier than in the likes of Monday’s much lighter cover.

The litany of catastrophic public service malfunctions continues.

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