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Agenda item

Winter Maintenance

a)       Joint Report of the Director of Transformation and Partnerships and the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services

b)       Presentation by John Reed, Head of Technical Services and Brian Buckley, Strategic Highways Manager


The Committee considered the joint report of the Director of Transformation and Partnerships and the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services that provided Members with information on winter maintenance (for copy of report, see file of minutes).


The Head of Technical Services and Strategic Highways Manager were in attendance to present the report and give a presentation that highlighted the following points:-


  • Winter Facts
  • Winter 2017/18
  • Service Changes 2018/19
  • Weather Stations
  • Winter Service Policy
  • Treatment Routes
  • Provision of Salt and Grit Bins
  • Key Facts and Figures
  • Partnership Working
  • The Snow Code
  • Winter Service ‘Go Live’


Looking back at the severe weather of 2017/18 winter members were advised that especially during the severe weather from the ‘Beast from the East’ highways teams had worked 24hours, 7 days a week on a two-shift system of twelve hours on and twelve hours off and kept our roads open. Members were advised that during last winter there were increases in the number of pre salt runs; of snow salt runs and salt bin replenishments that led to 61,580 tonnes of salt being used.


Information was given about treatment of routes and detail of priority of routes. In relation to priority one carriageways, 45% were treated within a target time of two and half hours. Information is taken from Meteogroup and the data is measured and information fed through. Members were advised that if the salt is applied to the road too early there is a risk it could be washed away and if applied too late it will not have time to take effect.


During and after heavy snowfall more intensive resource is required to keep carriageways clear and resources are concentrated on the ‘Resilient Network’ – a smaller network of more strategic priority one routes. When these were cleared then the remainder of priority one and two routes were cleared.


In relation to footways treatment is only carried out on a designated list in prolonged severe weather. However the service works in partnership with many parish councils in the county and provide salt for them to use on footways. The Head of Technical Services highlighted that householders could help by removing snow and ice from pavements outside their homes.


The Chairman thanked the Officers for their very informative presentation and indicated that this year there had been severe weather for an extended period. He wished to thank staff for all their hard work and effort in an expensive period for the authority which was managed well.


Councillor Sexton praised the work of the highways team in keeping the major routes open and asked if there were any systems that Members could use to see what roads were going to be gritted or a group of officers they could get in touch with.


The Head of Technical Services responded that they sent daily e-mails on what work they planned to do that focused on priority networks, but the plans depended on the weather conditions, the team would assist where they could but this was subject to available resources. If the weather was severe it would be difficult as they used all available resources, this did happen with the beast from the East and as it thawed quickly so they were able to look at other routes when priority routes were clear.


Councillor Sexton referred to the equipment that the team had helped his parish secure and asked if there was a list for parishes to sign up to partnership working as he had a group of people in his parish who were willing to help and any expertise or advice on gritting etc. would be welcomed.


Mr Bolton referred to the topping up of the salt bins and asked if this was monitored as some grit bins had heavy usage in bad weather and had issues with theft of salt from the bins, and how often were the salt bins topped up.


The Head of Technical Services advised Members that the salt bins were replenished on a scheduled basis but they also relied on members of the public to report if a bin required refilling in between the scheduled refill.


Councillor Dunn referred to 45% of the authorities road network required gritting which was higher than other local authorities. He commented that the gritter views were a fantastic innovation and traffic cameras were popular with motorists and helped them to make choices. The facilities allowed people to plan their route as they could see which roads had been cleared and make better choices about their journeys.


The Strategic Highways Manager advised Members that they had included the location of the weather cameras on the leaflet this year with a link to the website.


Councillor Jopling referred to the criteria for salting and asked if schools were part of the criteria.


The Head of Technical Services advised Members that they had to prioritise the strategic roads and make people aware that they could not grit some roads as they didn’t have the resources or they were too narrow to get the gritters down.


Members asked if they had sufficient salt for the winter and did they have the details of the location of the bins as sometimes they were moved. Members were advised that the salt stocks were to the maximum and they would continue to be topped up.


In response to a question from Councillor Brown the Head of Technical Services confirmed that salt bins do have a number.


Councillor Milburn asked if the service knew the location of the grit bins and if they were aware when they had been moved. The Head of Technical Services advised they knew the location of the bins and they were replaced if they go missing.


Councillor Martin referred to the daily e-mail alerts and asked if these could be sent only if there was something to report.


The Head of Technical Services indicated that it was important information for some organisations and to let people know as part of the policy, the e-mail went to various stakeholders and not just members.


Councillor Patterson referred to the overspend on salt last year, and suggested that is why it was important to have monies in reserves. Councillor Patterson then asked how the plastic roads referred to in the media item would fair in the winter.


The Head of Technical Services advised that it was a partnership initiative and currently there were three trials of plastic roads. They were confident that there would be no detrimental impact on performance. The plastic used was single use plastic which substituted some of the binder which was 6% but they hoped to increase this to 15%.


Councillor Jopling asked if it was cost effective.


The Head of Technical Services advised that the costs were the same but going forward they would expect a saving which would also help with issues of disposing of plastic and reduce carbon emissions.


Councillor Hicks complemented the Highways team on their work during the bad weather to keep the roads open.


Resolved: That the report and presentation be noted.

Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714