Notorious winter road on new school bus route

A SCHOOL bus driver could find herself facing some of the worst winter weather in the Borders, after the decision to mothball Ettrick Primary School earlier this year.

The area’s smallest primary closed its doors at the start of the summer holidays as no children were enrolled for the new school year, which started last month.

Scottish Borders Council had to give the permanent driver of the school bus on the Ettrick Primary run the first refusal of the work in Yarrow after the closure of the school, as the driver of the Yarrow bus was only on a fixed period contract which ended when the schools broke up for the summer.

“The driver in Ettrick decided to take up that option,” the local authority told TheSouthern this week.

However, what has sparked concern is the fact that the single driver will have to service both valleys, which means crossing the notorious Top Swire Road - it has lovely views in summer, but can be treacherous in winter as it is not salted or ploughed by the council.

SBC’s passenger transport manager, Colin Douglas, assured us: “The bus will be fitted with winter tyres and the driver is well used to driving on rural roads in winter conditions, so we do not expect any problems in her driving over the Top Swire.

“The route is being assessed for priority gritting/snow clearing in the current review of the winter maintenance plan.

“We have a number of spare buses and drivers based in Selkirk and they would be able to cover the work in Yarrow if we got exceptional weather conditions as we encountered in 2010-11.”

However, Councillor Gordon Edgar (Selkirkshire, Ind), the council’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, says the school bus having to cross the Top Swire Road in winter will cause concern.

“It’s definitely not an ideal situation,” Mr Edgar told us this week. “The Top Swire is not salted or gritted or ploughed during the winter and it can suffer from really bad weather conditions.

“So there will be some concerns there, but SBC will have to take every measure to ensure youngsters can get to school and get to school safely – it’s as simple as that.”

Mr Edgar’s fellow Selkirkshire councillor, Vicky Davidson (Lib Dem), who lives in the Ettrick Valley, agreed the Top Swire road can get “quite difficult” in the winter because of its location high up in the Selkirkshire valleys, but agreed it would probably be looked at with a view to re-classifying as a priority route for gritting in winter because of the school bus changes.

“And with winter tyres it shouldn’t be too much of a problem,” she added. “There haven’t been many times that I’ve failed to get across that route using winter tyres and, of course, it will be up to the discretion of the driver anyway if she thinks the weather is too bad.”