05 October 2010

Northamptonshire County Council has reviewed its winter service plans to be best prepared for the winter ahead.

The council’s cabinet will discuss strategies designed to keep the roads and footpaths as safe as possible during periods of inclement weather.

After two of the coldest and snowiest winters in decades the authority has refined its practices and introduced some new measures for this winter including:

  • A new type of sugar-coated salt which can be used more sparingly and reduces corrosion to vehicles.
  • Increased ‘resilience’ levels of salt storage – by increasing both the maximum level held in stock and the minimum level prior to re-order.
  • A 50/50 salt/sand mixture to be used in snowy conditions.
  • Providing borough and district councils with their own grit and working with them to maximise the available workforce in periods of snowfall.
  • Constant communication between gritting lorries and a central control hub so drivers can be diverted if necessary.

Cllr Heather Smith, county council cabinet member for transport and highways, said: “We don’t know what weather we’ll get in the coming months but after the past two years we do know that we need to be prepared for the worst.

“Keeping the road network open is a huge challenge and it requires a great amount of organisation so that we can work around the clock to keep the network running.

“We did a good job keeping roads open last winter and we did well keeping our salt stocks high so we didn’t run out like some authorities.

“However, we’re always learning how to improve and it’s vital we build on the good practice which has already been established.”

The road network has been reclassified into three levels of priority for the treatment of snow and ice, with priority given to those roads carrying the highest volume of traffic and where the risk of accidents is greatest.

Footways are also divided into three levels of priority. Generally, because of the costs involved and workload, it is only busy town centres and other areas of high usage which are treated if there is a high likelihood of snow settling.

For the 2009/2010 winter about 21,800 tonnes of salt was used on the county’s roads and footways, compared to 14,750 tonnes for 2008/2009.

After last winter the number of grit bins that can be used by the public was increased by 150 to 1,780, largely after requests.