Pair’s jour­ney halted by swing bridge fault

The Oban Times - - News - MON­ICA GIB­SON mgib­son@oban­

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.

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