Uplift safety concerns still not resolved

Alan Harbisher enjoys Glentress’s Spooky Woods

Back in April we reported on a Health and Safety review at Forestry Commission forests that caused the suspension of uplift services at Innerleithen. At the time we commented that “We can’t imagine that recreational uplifts will be suspended for long”. But clearly our powers of prophecy are waning, for here we are in November and they’re still not running.

An end to the suspension could be in sight, though, according to a report by Mark Inchley in local newspaper Borders Today. Various meetings and discussions involving FC Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, The Hub, British Cycling and even the local MSP Jeremy Purvis have been underway seeking a solution.

The concerns centred around cattle trucks being used to transport bikes and riders together. For race weekends, The Hub at Glentress was able to use two trucks to transport bikes and riders separately, but this was only deemed satisfactory for competition. Uplifts for practice weekends have been unavailable for months.

“It doesn’t make sense that it’s deemed safe for competition weekends and not the rest of the time,” Borders Today reports Hub co-owner Tracey Brunger as saying. “It’s all got incredibly political and has had a hugely detrimental effect on biking and the economy in the area.”

With practice weekends typically pulling in up to 500 riders, it’s amazing that things are taking so long. But then, with so many different bodies involved, it’s perhaps unsurprising. And while it’s reassuring that talking is going on, the Borders Today report doesn’t make it sound as if a solution is particularly imminent.

An FC Scotland spokesman is reported as saying, “The meeting was productive and we are moving forward to a solution for next year. In the meantime, as safety is a top priority, the interim safety measures are still in place as before.”

“We are very aware of the importance of mountain biking to the Tweed Valley and want to make the best of it, but not at the expense of safety. To pull together a wider approach to making this a success, we plan to meet with a range of organisations in the area next year to build on the Tweed Valley’s reputation for biking.”

While successful recreational uplift operations are working elsewhere (Cwm Down at Cwmcarn in South Wales always seems to be doing a roaring trade) they’re relatively small scale – finding a way of getting large numbers of riders to the top of long courses in a way that’s acceptable to the powers that be is a trickier issue. It seems a little surprising that it should be as tricky as it’s turning out to be, though…


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