With the nights starting to draw in and the clocks going back at the end of the month, North Somerset Council’s fleet of gritters will soon be heading out on the roads.
Every winter the council’s six gritters – which were christened Ice Cracker, Big Grit, Scoopy, Ice Destroyer, Mr G and Frosty by local school children last winter – are on standby to go out and treat roads across North Somerset to keep the area moving. But preparation for the winter maintenance programme takes place throughout the year.
During the summer, the gritters are sent to a supplier to be serviced and calibrated. They are then returned to the council’s highways depot in Sandford at the start of autumn when any new drivers are familiarised with the vehicles, routes and the council’s operational plan.
And, in the months leading up to winter, highways officers look at how much salt is in the council’s salt barn, ordering more as necessary so that it is stockpiled and ready to be used from the end of October.
The council’s surface dressing and micro asphalt road repair programmes take place before winter hits so that treated roads are sealed and protected against water before wet winter weather arrives.
Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, deputy leader and executive member with responsibility for highways, said: “Our winter maintenance programme runs from the end of October through to the end of March but preparation starts as early as May when we review our operational plan and start considering how much salt we’ll need to treat our roads over the winter period.
“And once autumn arrives, our highways staff are on duty 24 hours-a day – including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day – to monitor weather conditions and let the gritter crews know when they’re needed. Our six gritter lorries are on round-the-clock standby and can be called out to grit main routes with just two hours’ notice.”
Skanska, the council’s highways maintenance contractor, are responsible for delivering the winter maintenance programme.
Anne Roberts, Business Director at Skanska, explained: “When temperatures fall below zero we have to be ready to grit the roads at critical times during the day, particularly in the early hours of the morning and before the evening rush hour so routes are kept safe. To do this we have to start ordering and stockpiling the right amount of salt in advance of the winter.”
For more information about the council’s winter maintenance programme and to see the gritting routes visit www.n-somerset.gov.uk/winterroads, and follow @NSgritters on Twitter to find out when they’re out and about.