Edinburgh's ageing fleet of gully-clearing vehicles leads to big backlog of blocked gullies

Cllr Jason Rust says blocked gullies can create a significant road hazardCllr Jason Rust says blocked gullies can create a significant road hazard
Cllr Jason Rust says blocked gullies can create a significant road hazard
A backlog of blocked gullies across the city has been blamed on persistent problems with the council's fleet of specialist vehicles.

The gully-clearing lorries are said to suffer so many breakdowns they spend more time in the garage than on the road.

And that has led to delays of four to six weeks in complaints of blocked gullies being attended to, with a current list of over 1,000.

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Tory councillor Jason Rust said it was “totally unacceptable” that the council was providing an “ineffective” service.

The council has a fleet of four gully motors and over 13 months to August they attended 8,740 enquiries about blocked gullies, inspecting and cleaning a total of 17,035 gullies across the city.

Cllr Rust said he discovered the extent of the backlog when he raised an issue about a gully in his Colinton/Fairmilehead ward.

A reply he received from a council official said there was a new team which had inherited a substantial backlog and “an ageing fleet of gully motors that are sadly in the garage more often than on the road”.

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It continued: “This is leaving us only able to clear about 30 gullies a day per vehicle with only one available most days. Our current list of gullies waiting to be cleaned is 1,055 and this is leaving us with a four to six week lead time for standard reports.

“We are well aware this is unacceptable and we can only apologise for this. Moving forward, we have three new vehicles on order with the first due in January. We have also hired in a vehicle to help to reduce this outstanding list. This extra vehicle will stay on hire until all three new vehicles have arrived.”

Cllr Rust said the size of backlog and age and condition of the vehicles was clearly of serious concern.

"Blocked gullies can create a significant road hazard and we do have a duty to provide safe roads which are not waterlogged and to prevent flooding.

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"To taxpayers, gully emptying and maintaining drains is a basic service the council offers and blockages have also been causing issues for private property.

"While it is welcome that there are measures to be put in place to address the machinery next year, it does mean that through winter a very ineffective service is being offered and it is totally unacceptable."

A ward-by-ward breakdown of blocked gullies shows Meadows/Morningside had 985 enquiries attended by the gully-clearing team up to August, more than anywhere else in the city. Pentland Hills had the next biggest total at 874, followed by Southside/Newington with 779.

Environment vice-convener Karen Doran said the council’s roads operations team worked around the clock to minimise blocked drains and emptied 3,000-4,000 gullies a month.

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"The outstanding defects represent less than two per cent of the city’s gullies and many of these jobs are complex or involve third parties so are already in progress but take time to complete.

“We appreciate that blocked gullies and the resulting surface flooding can be disruptive and we’re in the process of renewing our fleet of gully motors, with three new vehicles to be delivered in the New Year, in time for the wettest months. I would encourage people to report any issues they’re aware of and we’ll respond as quickly as possible.”

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