Essex Highways set for winter weather

SERP Essex gritters

Essex Highways’ winter service has officially started, with gritter drivers on standby, a new salt barn – and more localised forecasting ready for any severe weather.

Essex County Council says the salt barn, located at Halstead and capable of holding around 500 tonnes of salt, will save money and gritter drivers’ time – as well as providing an even more reliable gritting service on routes around Halstead.

This year, the council will also be taking a ‘more sophisticated approach to decision making’ on when to grit roads, using locally-based forecasting.

Facts and figures about winter on Essex roads:

  • Council gritters cover 2,000 miles of key routes including A and B roads, plus at least one route serving villages or parishes with 50+ households
  • In total, there are 57 gritting routes – all of which can be treated within three hours, using 62 gritters and two mini-gritters
  • The council also treats: access roads to ambulance, fire and police stations; bus routes with four buses or more a day running for five days of the week; and various sites of national strategic significance
  • The council has agreements with a number of local farmers and other contractors, who can clear roads in the event of heavy snow
  • Gritters went out 108 times last winter, using 27,000 tonnes of salt, compared to a recent average winter of 60 times
  • Local salt bins have been topped up for people to treat local roads and pavements themselves. Salt has also been delivered to town and parish councils

Cllr Kevin Bentley, cabinet member for infrastructure, said:

“It is easy to decide to grit all the main roads when the temperature is very cold, but that can also lead to a waste of valuable gritting resources if we end up gritting roads when we don’t actually need to in certain locations.

“It is a balance. We don’t want to leave our winter road network slippery, nor do we want to waste tonnes of salt if they’re not actually going to freeze.

“So, for the first time this year, we will be using what we term as ‘route-based forecasting’ to augment the temperature measures at our eight local weather stations.

“Climatologists have been mapping each road on our salting network, taking into account the height and gradient of a road, shade from trees or buildings, wind exposure and proximity to the sea, rivers or hills.

“This means that, alongside decisions taken to grit across the five general areas in Essex, we can make better informed decisions to grit or not to grit when the temperature is marginal.”

05 November 2018

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