Aberdeenshire Council have issued a press release to reassure residents that its winter maintenance program is appropriate and able to cope with any bad weather despite the budget being cut by around £1million this year.
The £4.2 million 2015/16 winter maintenance budget will pay for
- gritting, snow clearing on 3,300 miles of roads and 968 miles of footpaths
- 210 council staff
- 17 external contractors
- 120 local farmers to help snow clearing of minor and rural roads
- 30,000 tonnes of salt stockpiled with the ability to purchase more as required
One change to this years gritting policy is that the roads service will only carry out emergency action between 10pm and 5.30am at the request of Police Scotland. This will normally be in support of their response to “blue light” emergencies.
Chairman of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, David Aitchison, said
The council is introducing minor amendments to the winter service to establish a clearer understanding of when gritting should take place on non-primary roads and footways.
In other words, we are trying to avoid the situation where we are gritting roads and footways when a natural thaw is imminent.
It is important to stress that the council’s winter policy – to reduce as far as possible the effects of adverse weather on the safe movement of people and vehicles in Aberdeenshire – has not changed. Rather, we are bringing our practices better in line with policy.
It has been alleged that the council have been issuing unofficial instructions to gritting staff about what and when to grit saying
- only grit the main road in a village
- if the public don’t complain then there isn’t a need to grit
- gritting vehicles should drive about so people think they are gritting
in order to save money from their reduced budget.
Aberdeenshire Council have denied these unsubstantiated claims, saying Aberdeenshire’s primary road network of around 1,000 miles of roads will continue to be treated on a preventative basis. Gritters and ploughs will sent out from 5.30am and 3pm each day when detailed weather forecasts and other local information indicate the need for gritting.
Aberdeenshire Councils primary network is made up of 32 different routes of mostly ‘A’ and ‘B’ class roads and other busy commuter routes that connect Aberdeenshire’s main towns and villages.
Roads, footways and cycle paths are categorised into appropriate priority levels. The primary treatment network consists of priority one and two roads.
The aim is to keep priority one roads passable at all times unless weather conditions are abnormally severe. These roads are always gritted or ploughed before any others, including priority two roads.
To reduce instances of unnecessary gritting, sub-zero road temperatures need to be forecast for 48 hours before priority three roads are treated.
This does not mean the council holds off from treatment for 48 hours – if forecasts show freezing conditions persisting for at least 48 hours, these roads will be gritted as soon as treatment of priority one and two routes is complete.
The council also aims to keep priority one footpaths in a safe condition for pedestrians during the normal working day, accepting that this may not always be possible during storm conditions. These footpaths are typically in busy urban areas, near shops, businesses, and medical and community facilities.
Footpaths are not treated before 8am, except in exceptional circumstances when heavy snowfall is forecast. Cycle paths are prioritised and treated similarly.
Vice-chairman of the Infrastructure Services Committee, Stephen Smith, said
These minor changes have been in effect since November, and will be discussed at area committees in January. We are the second largest roads authority in Scotland and as such we have to manage expectations in terms of what’s possible within our available budget.
To help explain to residents our winter service policy and procedure following the recent changes, we have created a Frequently Asked Questions resource which is available on our website.
Planned and proactive treatment is at the heart of winter maintenance in Aberdeenshire and this remains the case.
You can find out more about Aberdeenshire Councils winter maintenance and gritting routes on the council website Winter Gritting Routes.