Falkirk’s motorists must learn from M80 winter nightmare

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The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has urged drivers to be prepared this winter and learn from 2018’s battle against the Beast from the East on the M80.

Snowstorms hammered the Falkirk area for a week at the end of February and the start of March and led directly to several hundred motorists becoming stranded on the busy stretch of motorway.

When the crisis hit, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service joined its partner organisations – and some hardy residents – to assist the drivers who had become trapped while travelling through the worst of the Beast from the East.

Firefighters formed a convoy of 4x4s after the M80 was effectively turned into a virtual “car-park”, with vehicles coming to a complete halt.

Crews worked with council workers and other agencies to provide the trapped drivers with food, water and blankets.

Senior fire officer Garry Mackay was involved in the mission and, while he would not hesitate to answer the motorway SOS call again, he is urging drivers to ensure they are prepared before travelling this winter.

He said: “There was six or seven miles of cars and they had become completely stuck. As soon as we emerged onto the M80, you could see cars trapped. There were vehicles at different angles, lorries across the road, abandoned cars – we were the only moving vehicles on both sides of the motorway.

“There were a number of people with absolutely no provisions at all, so they were massively appreciative of the arrival of food, water and blankets. I spoke to one woman who was a nurse at a cancer care centre and she had spent four hours trying to get to work, only to get there and be told she should just go home - she turned round and that was her stuck for 11 hours.

“It was really difficult for people like her. The biggest lesson anyone could take away from this is that, when you are stuck, it’s very difficult to get going again. Fundamentally, if we get conditions like this, people need to ask themselves if their journey is absolutely essential.

“If it’s felt it is, then please put in place sufficient provisions, ensure you have a full tank of fuel, a fully-charged mobile phone, warm clothing, a small shovel and some food.

“The most important thing to remember for us all is to be prepared.”

Visit www.readyscotland.org/are-you-ready/on-the-move for more information.