Gridlock threat amid COP26 road blocks and protests
Nicola Sturgeon speaking at the pre-COP26 event
Scotland is facing potential gridlock as COP26 demonstrations, road blocks , major sporting fixtures and bad weather put “unprecedented” pressure on the transport network.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, speaking at a briefing ahead of the COP26 summit, said hosting the event was an “honour” for Glasgow but also a “huge responsibility”.
She said: “It is inevitable, given how major this event is, that it will bring some disruption. That will be particularly true over the next few days.
“We know that certain dates are going to be particularly busy.”
She said there were significant road closures, while demonstrations causing disruption were “anticipated” and were known about, but others may take place. She said progress would not be made if discussions were not allowed to proceed.
Demonstrators have noted that a recent High Court Injunction banning road blockades does not apply in Scotland – and that the authorities will be overwhelmed by the scale of the protests.
Scottish spokesman for Extinction Rebellion Myke Hall told the Daily Mail that ministers should be “very worried” about their plans to disrupt the event.
The £100 million policing operation at COP26 represents the biggest deployment of officers on record in the UK – larger than the London Olympics and the recent G7 summit in Cornwall.
An average of 10,000 officers from Police Scotland and forces around Britain will be on duty every day for three weeks, with the UK Government picking up the bill.
MSPs were told earlier this year that police expect to make 300 arrests a day and arrangements are in hand to cope with a surge in court cases.
Transport Scotland has warned that “the impact on motorways and railways should not be underestimated” and is urging people not to make unnecessary journeys.
Road closures are already in place and severe weather is causing added disruption to motorists and rail travellers.
There is also a rugby international taking place at Murrayfield in Edinburgh which would normally force thousands of fans on to the M8 and the Glasgow-Edinburgh trains.
Nicola Blaney, head of events resilience for Transport Scotland, said: “There will be severe disruption on our transport system and we therefore urge people to consider their travel plans very carefully.
Police will create a ring of steel to control demonstrators (pic: Terry Murden)
“Across the network, we know certain dates are due to be much busier than others especially November 1, 2, 5 and 6. This weekend is also likely to be very heavily congested, and we need people to help us to avoid gridlock and crucially, leave space for key workers and emergency services to make essential journeys.
“We’ve been encouraging people to work from home as a way of reducing the risk of Covid – which would also help ease pressure on the transport network during the conference’s peak.”
Road closures are already in place for public safety with Glasgow’s Clydeside Expressway now fully closed until 14 November.
The M8 will be subject to lane restrictions and road closures from 8pm on 30 October until 6am on 15 November. The Tradeston M8 on-slip at West Street will be closed with no access to North Street/Charing Cross.
Further road restrictions which will come into effect next week include road closures from Monday 1 November around Argyle Street. This will increase congestion and put additional strain on the road network.
Friday 5 November and Saturday 6 November are also expected to be extremely busy, due to planned climate change related marches going from Kelvingrove Park into the city centre and Glasgow Green.
It’s estimated up to 25,000 people will attend the COP26 event through the duration of the conference, and as many as 14,000 will be at the SECC at any one time. This means train services throughout the event will be busier than usual.
Demonstrators pouring oil outside the Hydro today
ScotRail, which this week managed to avert the prospect of a strike over pay, is adding extra carriages and frequent electric rail services will be provided until late at night – after midnight on some routes – to help delegates, attendees and the people of Glasgow get around the city as smoothly as possible.
Severe rainfall is also causing chaos around the country. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued ten flood warnings and ten alerts today.
Travellers making their way to the Cop26 conference from London would ordinarily use the West Coast service to reach Glasgow, with many instead forced to travel on LNER services from King’s Cross to Edinburgh because of disruption caused by flooding.
Other trains were disrupted by the weather, including the Edinburgh to Glasgow Central via Shotts, Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street via Falkirk High and Glasgow Queen Street to Alloa/Aberdeen/Inverness services.
This week, major road routes into Glasgow have been submerged by major rain, with the city’s Great Western Road, in the West End, was left underwater – with drivers forced to leave their cars when the flooding hit.
David Simpson, ScotRail operations director, said: “We are absolutely committed to providing the best possible transport experience for delegates and our regular customers during this important event.
“We have been working closely with organisers, local authorities and industry partners to balance the needs of delegates and customers across Scotland.
The public is advised to visit the Get Ready Glasgow website – www.getreadyglasgow.com – which provides all the travel details and will be regularly updated with all the latest information for commuters and businesses as well as details on alternative routes, local road closure dates and where local access will be maintained.
Police Scotland’s assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins, said: “Our aim is to deliver a safe and secure event, whilst keeping the city, and indeed the country, operational and moving.”