Bear Scotland have defended their decision to close the Skye Bridge this week for over seven hours, citing hurricane-force winds as the reason.
The closure order took effect at just after 4am on Monday and the bridge reopened at 11.45am. Huge queues of traffic — including shop deliveries for Skye — built up on both sides, with fears expressed that the bridge could be closed regularly throughout the winter if trunk road contractor Bear Scotland have adopted a new policy. Kyle and Kyleakin primary schools were also closed as a result of staff being unable to travel.
“I have seen the bridge open in far worse conditions than we had on Monday morning,” said Ian Sikorski from Kyleakin. “My concern is that if Bear Scotland start doing this in these kind of conditions how often will the bridge be closed over the winter?”
A spokeswoman for Bear Scotland, the contractor responsible for trunk roads in the north and west, denied that the consortium had adopted a new policy for when the bridge should close.
She added: “Wind speed on the Skye Bridge is monitored on an ongoing basis using specialist weather stations. It is essential that safety policies and procedures relate to the actual conditions on the bridge as these can differ from those even quite close by.
“Yesterday (Monday) the on-bridge systems recorded gusts of up to 110.1mph. While we appreciate closing the bridge has an impact, safety is the top priority. Gusty, changeable wind conditions can be particularly challenging when dealing with road bridges, as these are the conditions that may affect high-sided vehicles in particular.
“The bridge was reopened as soon as the conditions remained consistent and safe enough.”
The spokeswoman said the 110mph gust was recorded at 4.24am — over seven hours before the restrictions were lifted.
“This measurement is done by a telemetry monitoring system which then actions a change on Traffic Scotland signs approaching the bridge,” she added. “Therefore the decision is triggered automatically according to the speed of winds monitored by the weather systems on the bridge.”
In a letter in this week’s Free Press, Broadford resident Mick Scott asked why the bridge was closed while the Sconser-Raasay ferry was able to sail. Also sailing while the bridge was closed was the Armadale-Mallaig ferry.