Rural communities left to count cost of road closures

People living in rural areas are being left without vital economic and transport links to their local towns due to multiple, lengthy and disruptive road closures within a short period of time.

Rural villages such as Newcastleton are being regularly shut off from local towns such as Jedburgh or Hawick due to closures.

Calls are being made for public bodies to coordinate to keep closures to a minimum . There has been two major road closures this year, which has had a detrimental effect on Newcastleton.

In addition to this, the B6399 at Whitrope Heritage Centre is due to be shut for 5 working days from the 17th February. This will add at least 15 minutes and 10 miles to a single journey from Newcastleton to Hawick that usually only takes around 40 minutes, and only if road users are able to use single track country roads.

The B6357 between Saughtree and Singdean has been shut for 12 working days with work having begun on the 23rd January. This has meant no direct route from Newcastleton to Jedburgh. This closure adds at least 5 minutes to the journey that takes around 45 minutes.

Openreach are being blamed for the closure on the B6399 where they will be laying cable and duct in the road.

Openreach and Scottish Borders Council are being urged to take account of the economic impact on local communities when closing roads for a long period of time. It is thought a joined up approach from public bodies would stop multiple closures happening within a short period of time  Residents have to bear the costs of both longer and more expensive routes. However, there is also an impact on the number of tourists who are put off from visiting if roads are closed, which affects local businesses and attractions.

Commenting John Lamont MP said: “Newcastleton is already a very rural area with a round trip to Hawick taking around one and a half hours. When these roads close, locals are left to count the cost of the disruption.

“Not only do they have to leave longer for their journeys, but there are additional fuel costs as well which can be burdensome for many families. Local cafes and businesses will feel the hit of these closures too.

“I obviously welcome any upgrades by either the local authority or Openreach, but it is important that closures are kept to only a few days at minimum and local communities are properly notified. What we really need to see is more synchronisation between those who are needing to close roads.”

Secretary of Newcastleton Community Trust, Barbara Elborn also commented: “We were informed about the timing of the BT closure on Jan 3rd but hoped to get someone somewhere to see sense. This hasn’t happened. As a result, we will be impacted by the 2nd major road closure since the New Year – 4 weeks of closures in 6 weeks - impacting on the wider community much more broadly than just fuel and time.

“The issue is joined up thinking and planning so these matters do not impact on us, causing financial hardship, not being constrained by budgets needing to be spent before year ends when weather also plays it part in cutting off our routes.

“There is a benefit to all of the work, but that could be hugely enhanced for many more of us if all the public sector worked harmoniously to the same end.”