Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

No apology after A38 in Devon is blocked by snow


Devon roads gridlocked after snow

Police have admitted they were caught out by a blizzard which left hundreds of motorists stranded in east Devon on Tuesday, but have refused to apologise.

The jams on the A380 and the A38, on Haldon Hill and Telegraph Hill, near Exeter, left some motorists stuck for eight hours.

Some drivers criticised the authorities for a lack of organisation and not clearing the jam earlier.

But police said there was "excellent coordination" in tackling the problem.

Hundreds of motorists were stranded in the same place by snow in 2009.

It was absolutely shambolic
Driver Neil Ward

Driver Neil Ward, from Crediton, who was trapped on Haldon Hill for four hours, told BBC News: "It was absolutely shambolic.

"I saw one policeman and his attitude was that it was our fault the road was blocked.

"There seemed to be no-one to organise it."

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the jams.

He said: "How can we apologise when you have very localised snow on high ground?

"There was excellent co-ordination. There were weather warnings, the roads had been gritted and there were facilities for those that got stuck.

"That's not to say we cannot learn lessons from what happened.

"But there is not a lot we could have done at an extremely busy time of the day.

"As far as we are concerned we did our best."

Snow on roads
We sincerely apologise to people who were stuck, but we did our best
Peter Heron, Highways Agency

Gritters struggled to get through the traffic with progress made worse by a broken-down vehicle. Traffic started flowing again at 2245 GMT.

Peter Heron, from the Highways Agency, said: "It looks horrendous and we sincerely apologise to people who were stuck, but we did our best.

"It was a combination of a very heavy dose of snow, heavy rush-hour traffic and a vehicle breakdown.

"The gritters were going up the hill with the traffic, but when they got to the top and turned round there had been an accident and they could not get through."

A number of abandoned vehicles are still on the side of road at Haldon Hill.

Mr Heron said: "Motorists are our customers. We are responsible for providing a safe and trouble-free road for them to drive on.

"We don't like it when they get held up and so we apologise."

Hazardous conditions

A number of temporary rest centres, including one at Exeter Racecourse, were set up for stranded drivers.

Chris Cranstone, from Devon County Council, said: "We do not feel there is anything more we could have done.

"But clearly it is distressing for people caught up in the snow.

"I don't want people to feel that we are happy about that happening."

The snow on Tuesday also affected air travel and led to a number of flights in and out of Plymouth Airport being cancelled.

Snow is still causing hazardous driving conditions on the A30 at Rag Lane in Yarcombe.

In Devon, three schools were closed, with five shut in Cornwall.

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