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Investment means County Council is set fair for winter weather on the road network

3 November 2018

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.

The salt barn, capable of holding around 500 tonnes of salt at Halstead, will save gritter drivers time travelling back and forward to Ardleigh, near Colchester, to fill up. As well as saving money, this means an even more reliable gritting service on routes around Halstead.

The council will also be taking a more sophisticated approach to decision making on when to grit roads, using locally-based forecasting.

Here are the top ten facts and figures about winter on Essex's roads:

  • Our 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 all we have 57 gritting routes - You can see them online here.
  • We also treat 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, such as refineries etc.
  • These roads take 80% of traffic in Essex and make up 40% of the whole network.
  • We can grit all our routes within three hours, using 62 gritters and 2 mini-gritters.
  • We have agreements with a number of local farmers and other contractors, who can clear roads we don't cover if there is 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. We have also delivered salt to Town and Parish councils and others through our Salt Bag Partnership.
  • We also work with District/City/Borough councils, who help clear busy pavements in town centres, allowing our teams to focus on their road gritting.
  • You can help with the clearing too, provided you follow a few common-sense guidelines. Read more here.

Councillor 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.

“This might mean, for example, that we may just grit individual roads in an area. In the future we may even move to gritting smaller stretches along individual routes.

“This is a great example of how innovative approaches can save us money while continuing to keep the travelling public safe."