Pair’s journey halted by swing bridge fault
A MAN has hit out at BEAR Scotland after his travel plans were upended by a fault on a Lochaber swing bridge.
Richard Peakin was travelling with his wife Carol from Skye to Fort William on November 29 when the Laggan Bridge broke down and put a stop to their journey. The couple had been on a trip to celebrate Mrs Peakin’s 60th birthday and had planned to spend the night in Fort William before returning to their home in Durham.
‘ What I want is for these companies to realise their community responsibilities rather than just their contractual ones,’ said Mr Peakin.
Mr Peakin told The Oban Times many people had got out of their vehicles and were confused about the situation.
‘There was no information,’ Mr Peakin added. ‘We couldn’t get reception for local radio but the drivers who could said there were no announcements about the fault and nothing online. Some of the professional drivers told us that on previous occasions when the bridge had stopped working it had taken more than six hours to solve the problem. We didn’t know what to do.’
Despite having booked a hotel in Fort William, Mr Peakin and his wife decided to change tack and head for Inverness. They managed to find another hotel to stay that night but Mrs Peakin became anxious and unwell.
He said: ‘We had enjoyed a lovely trip but this whole issue put a dampener on it. The north of Scotland for us is not the middle of nowhere but it is unfamiliar territory and, when you are driving around on roads you do not know and there is very limited hours of daylight, it can be unsettling. You don’t always feel safe and we didn’t even know if we would have a bed for the night.
‘ We could not believe there was no-one trying to get the message out. I later contacted Caledonian Canals which put me onto BEAR Scotland. My first few attempts at corresponding were ignored. Eventually I asked them to refund the money I had to spend on an unplanned night in Inverness. It is not about the money – I would be happy for them to make a donation to charity.’
The Oban Times contacted BEAR Scotland and was told in the north-west area alone, it is responsible for 1,723 structures, including four swing bridges on the Caledonian Canal.
A spokesperson said: ‘Maintenance of all our bridges is treated as high priority and inspections and routine maintenance are carried out at prescribed times. On the swing bridges this takes place every month.
‘Unfortunately, complications with the swing bridges sometimes occur. We have standard emergency procedures for the failure of a swing bridge and in this instance the bridge failed on the opening swing, meaning the road had to be temporarily closed.
‘In line with standard procedures, Scottish canal operators contacted our control room to report the fault. If the fault cannot be rectified remotely using our specialist systems, we are required to attend the swing bridges within an hour and then bring in specialist resources as required. On this occasion, teams were on site within an hour and the issue was solved in 30 minutes.
‘Traffic Scotland was also notified as soon as the fault was reported and was displaying information on its Twitter page and website.
‘We are not able to comment on the specifics of the gentleman’s claim. However, we feel we did everything we could to minimise disruption to road users. No other complaints have been received about our handling of the incident.’
BEAR also reminded motorists that bridge improvement works at Laggan swing bridge and Aberchalder swing bridge are currently under way. This will involve painting the structures with a specialist protective layer to help prevent the steelwork from deteriorating.
As part of a £1.2 million investment from Transport Scotland, refurbishment will also take place at Invergarry bridge.
Work on all three bridges was scheduled to begin last Monday, with the work at Invergarry bridge taking up to four weeks and the improvements on Laggan and Aberchalder bridges expected to take up to 10 weeks. The A82 will remain open throughout the work with temporary traffic lights in place at each location for safety.