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WATCH: Outrage as Caledonian Canal swing bridge opened to water traffic despite ambulance on blue run approaching

A row has erupted over traffic priorities with a city swing bridge amid claims an ambulance was delayed.

A video, which has been shared far and wide on social media, shows the waiting ambulance on the Telford Street side of the Caledonian Canal as the Muirtown Swing Bridge was closed to allow a passing vessel to navigate through the narrow.

Canal bosses said the operation could not be stopped once the ambulance arrived.

The incident took place just after 5.45pm on Thursday evening – the time where an agreement between Scottish Canals and Highland Council ceases, with the agreement in place to ensure road swing bridges are not be opened to boat traffic.

Under the agreement with the local authority, from Monday to Friday, the Muirtown Swing Bridge should be closed to boats between 8.15 am and 9.20am, 12.10pm and 1.20pm, and 4.25pm and 5.45pm.

Iain Mackenzie, who shot the video, said: “I heard it before the bridge was opened – and I was about 500 yards away on the other side – so the operator definitely heard it.

“It’s pretty poor to be honest.

“Ten minutes is a lot of time if somebody has had an accident or a stroke or a heart attack. I know if that was one of my family members that I wouldn’t be best pleased.

“Surely they must have a procedure where, if they hear any siren, they must immediately stop.”


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A pouring of outrage has occurred on social media, with the video racking up more than 5,200 views.

A Scottish Canals spokeswoman confirmed staff are trained to check for the approach of emergency vehicles prior to closing the bridge to road traffic.

She added: “At 5.47pm an ambulance arrived at Muirton Swing Bridge. As the bridge swing was underway the operator assessed the situation and determined that it was unsafe to stop and close the bridge due to the transiting boat already being part way through the bridge.

“The boat crew and Scottish Canals staff immediately made every effort to move the boat through as quickly as possible resulting in the road being open within minutes of the ambulance arriving at the bridge.”

Councillor Bet McAllister yesterday said: “It is very concerning.

“There needs to be much greater communication methods between both the ambulance service and the canal operator to ensure something like this does not happen again.

Fellow councillor Alex Graham has written to Scottish Canals to request an investigation into the incident, after being made aware of the incident by The Press and Journal.

He said: “If it were possible for Scottish Canals to hold the opening of the swing bridge and they failed to do so, then that is of course of extreme concern.

“Steps now must be taken to ensure there is no reoccurrence of this incident.”

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