From Aberdeenshire Council communications team –
With the days getting shorter and temperatures starting to fall, Aberdeenshire Council is putting its winter operations into motion to ensure it can respond to winter weather across the region.
Despite experiencing a far milder season earlier this year, the council is taking nothing for granted and has already taken delivery of 25,000 tonnes of salt to treat North-east routes.
The council operates a fleet of 54 gritters, support vehicles and around 300 dedicated Roads and Landscape staff who keep the area moving and ensure our residents and businesses can travel and operate as freely as possible through potentially challenging conditions.
Of course, this year the local authority is facing the added challenge of Covid-19 and the impact that has on staffing resources across its Roads, Landscape and Waste Services.
Over 3,000 miles of roads
Typically, the local authority will use around 45,000 tonnes of salt annually to ensure that the region’s 3,424-mile road network – and around 1,000 miles of footways – remains safe for all users.
The council’s Roads team carefully monitors both weather forecasts and actual road surface temperatures to ensure crews react as quickly as possible to changing conditions.
And, while it is impossible to keep all surfaces clear and free of snow and ice at all times, lessons learned from previous years are routinely implemented in a bid to minimise the impact of severe weather.
The council also contracts out around 120 local farmers who will help clear snow from minor rural roads wherever necessary.
In terms of Aberdeenshire’s roads network, all routes are categorised into appropriate priority levels with the primary network being made up of 32 different routes covering 1,081 miles – around 30% of the region’s entire network.
Mostly ‘A’ and ‘B’ class roads, the primary network also include a number of busy commuter routes which keep Aberdeenshire’s main towns and villages connected.
Aberdeenshire Council’s over-riding aim is to keep priority one roads passable at all times unless weather conditions are particularly severe. To achieve that these roads will always be gritted before any others.
Philip McKay, Head of Roads, Landscape and Waste Services, explains: “When conditions require it, the primary road network receives preventative treatment with gritters and ploughs starting a morning treatment at 5.40am and finishing an evening treatment no later than 9pm each day. On the minor routes, gritting is undertaken if sub-zero road temperatures are forecast for 48 hours.”
Looking after pedestrians and cyclists
In addition to looking after the region’s roads, the council is gearing up to treat footpaths and cycle routes which are also prioritised.
The intention is to keep footways in busy urban areas – near shops, businesses, and medical and community facilities – in as safe a condition for pedestrians as possible. Most footpath treatment is carried out during the normal working day.
However, around 1,750 grit bins are located across Aberdeenshire to enable residents to self-treat nearby roads and footways.
Between the hours of 9pm and 5.40am an emergency response only is provided if requested by any of the emergency services. This retains the council’s 24-hour service capability while ensuring a level of consistency.
As outlined above, the scale of the task across Aberdeenshire Council is enormous, and our teams cannot be everywhere at once. Of course, this year the local authority is facing the added challenge of Covid-19 and the impact that has on staffing resources across its Roads, Landscape and Waste Services.
As with all sectors of society, there is the risk that an upturn in cases could result in a reduction in the availability of the right people, with the right skills, as they may be asked to self-isolate. At the moment levels are low in Aberdeenshire and the impact on frontline staff is not significant, however that can change quickly.
The focus of the Service will be on maintaining critical services, including roads winter maintenance, however there is potential that the “normal” service level may have to be altered to accommodate reduced staffing levels.
Snow wardens wanted
Road users, including pedestrians, are asked to monitor communications closely and take prevailing conditions into account in planning journeys. This year pre-planning is more important than ever.
In any year, the role of local communities in increasing local winter resilience cannot be overestimated, and we value their commitment and support of our existing Snow Wardens. This winter is no exception and indeed we would encourage individuals and groups to get involved to assist in what are uncertain times.
If you individually, or as a group, would like to get involved in the Snow Wardens Scheme, applications are once again being taken. For more information, visit: http://bit.ly/AShireSnowWardens
For more information on the council’s winter maintenance programme go to: http://bit.ly/WinterRdsMaintenance
To see the council’s planned gritting for each day, go to: http://bit.ly/AShireGritting
For information on road closures and restrictions, go to: http://bit.ly/Road-closures
You can also follow roads updates from the team on Twitter @AbshireRoads