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Council aims to be a hit with the grit this winter

By David G Scott

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Highland Council recently invested in 10 new winter gritting vehicles to replace some of the ageing fleet, and they are ready to be deployed when needed.

The new vehicles, which have been dispatched across the region bring the council’s winter fleet to 105 gritters, 42 footpath tractors, one snowblower with over 200 staff who spread around 50,000 tonnes of salt on Highland roads and pavements in a typical winter.

The council has adequate salt stocks and it is expected that approximately 45,000 tonnes will be in storage ready for the start of the main winter season. The council has no concerns about future provision of salt deliveries. The total salt usage for last winter (2019/20) was 48,000 tonnes, which was less than previous years reflecting what was a milder than average winter. The cost of the salt for winter 2019/20 was in the order of £1.68 million.

Highland Council is replacing old gritters with a brand new fleet. Picture: DGS
Highland Council is replacing old gritters with a brand new fleet. Picture: DGS

Leader of Highland Council, councillor Margaret Davidson, said: “Our recent investment in new gritting vehicles will help us deliver an efficient and reliable service over the coming winter months and our salt stock piles are in place to ensure we have enough to service as much of the region as possible.

“We are no strangers to a harsh winter here in Highland and our staff are ready to deal with whatever comes their way.”

The winter roads maintenance budget for 2020/21 is £5 million which will be used to look after the 6766km of roads for which the council has responsibility. Trunk roads such as the main A9, A96, A82, and A87 among others are maintained by Bear Scotland.

Chair of the council’s economy and infrastructure committee, councillor Trish Robertson said: “Our staff have been working hard in the background to prepare the fleet and equipment to deal as best as they possibly can with winter.

"The additional new top-of-the range vehicles to the winter fleet have all the equipment to make them as efficient as possible when carrying out the work. Winter work will continue until April 14, 2021.”

There have been no changes to this year’s Highland-wide winter policy, so service levels throughout the local areas will remain unchanged from last year. Any variations to service delivery are determined by councillors at area committees to suit local areas. The service will begin at 6am each day, as and when required.

The council will keep grit bins full for the public to use. Picture: DGS
The council will keep grit bins full for the public to use. Picture: DGS

There will be a Monday to Friday service in which all roads are treated and a weekend service which includes treatment of all the primary routes, strategic secondary routes and difficult "other" routes. The service will be provided within the resources available and as weather conditions permit.

As in previous years, Highland Council is offering assistance to communities who wish to take action in their own area to help clear snow and ice from footpaths but providing salt in either bins or heaps, snow shovels and pushers, gloves and hi-vis vests, health and safety advice to volunteers and public liability insurance. Full guidance and an application form can be found on the council’s website.

The arrival of Covid-19 during 2020 has presented the council with significant challenges and there remains uncertainty as to what level of transmission may occur within the Highland area over the coming winter.

Motorists and members of the public should recognise that despite the council taking all necessary precautions there is still a risk, that should an outbreak occur within one of our larger depots, the level of service provided may be affected due to the need of driver(s) to self-isolate.

Should this occur resources will be supplemented, where possible, with drivers who have the correct licence requirements from within the council. Subsequently this could have a knock-on effect in the delivery of other services such as waste and amenities.

In a worst-case scenario, it may be necessary to reduce the extent of the road network treated at any one time. This may result in the shifting of resources to concentrate on the treatment of the primary and secondary networks only. Alternatively, it may be the case that the whole network continues to be treated but it is late afternoon or the next day before all the minor roads and residential streets are treated.

The council is required to adhere to the driver’s hours regulations which limits the length of time a driver can operate a vehicle, so driver resources are not limitless.

For more information check out the council webpage Ready For Winter

Find out the gritting policy for your area at www.highland.gov.uk/gritting

UK GOVERNMENT VIEWPOINT: Extra support to staff and firms during winter months

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