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9-MILE SIGH CLUB; Road repair bungle causes monster jam.

Thousands of motorists were snared in a nine-mile traffic jam yesterday after a tarmac gang got their timing badly wrong.

They should have started repairing one of Scotland's busiest roads at 7pm.

But 12 hours later at 7AM they began work on a 200-yard stretch of the A80 between Haggs, Stirlingshire, and junction 4 of the M80.

It was just in time for the morning rush hour, which came to a standstill.

And there was even less luck for many motorists trying to join the jammed road - who were stuck in a five- mile tailback down the M73.

The AA said it added up to Scotland's WORST-EVER jam.

Trouble started when the road contractors from Falkirk Council shut down two lanes of the A80 at Castlecary.

The resulting chaos saw traffic snake back along a nine mile stretch of the A80 to Moodiesburn.

Some motorists took more than three hours to pass the roadworks.

The Scottish Office last night blamed Falkirk Council for the problems and announced the postponement of the pounds 100,000 contract - so there won't be any roadworks on the spot for the rest of the week.

They also ordered traffic cones to be moved by lunchtime to ease the congestion - and road rage.

Tempers rose faster than the temperatures of overheated engines. Some vehicles ran out of petrol.

Glasgow businessman Antony Mistofsky joined the tailback on the M73 at 9am as he headed for a 9.30am meeting in Cumbernauld.

It took him almost two hours to travel just a mile and a half and it was almost noon before he arrived at his meeting.

He said: "It was absolutely outrageous. I was so angry there was steam coming out of my ears.

"What sorts of brains do these people have? No one in their right mind does that kind of work at that time of the day.

"These roads are the main arteries of Scotland and yet there we were at a complete standstill. Mobile phone companies will have made a killing out of this because driver after driver was forced to do business on the phone.

"And to think there was all that chaos over a 200 yard piece of road."

The Scottish Office commissioned Forth Local Authority Consortium - including Falkirk Council and other local authorities in the area - to carry out the upgrading work.

They are also demanding to know how the foul-up happened.

A spokesman insisted that the terms of the contract clearly state that work should take place between 7.30pm and 6am - outside evening and morning rush hours - each day this week.

But following yesterday's chaos, a decision was taken to reschedule the work.

The Scottish Office spokesman said: "It was supposed to take place during the night to keep disruption to a minimum.

"The terms of the contract quite clearly specify the working hours but unfortunately they started outwith those times.

"We have asked the consortium for a report to provide us with answers to what happened yesterday.

"The work will be rearranged for another time but it won't be this week."

Falkirk Council said the terms of the Scottish Office contract prevented the authority from making any comment on the bungle.

A spokeswoman said: "As the Scottish Office is aware, Forth Local Consortium is prevented by the terms of its contract from answering any press enquiries on the trunk road network."

The AA said the long tailbacks caused many cars to overheat and several to run out of petrol.

A spokeswoman said: "I think this is the worst traffic jam that Scotland has ever seen.

"You would expect things like this to happen in England but not up here. It just shows you how many people use that road.

"I've never seen anything like this before. It was complete and utter chaos, there's no two ways about it."

She said that some motorists simply failed to find a detour.

"What astonished me was the fact that so many people actually ignored radio broadcasts warning how bad the jam was," she added.

"There were still drivers taking the slip road on to the M73 even though they knew what lay ahead."
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mulford, Sarah
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 27, 1998
Words:692
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