People who live and work in North Yorkshire can be reassured that our highways team is geared up as usual to keep the county moving during winter weather.
We spend between £6m and £10m each winter on gritting, depending on the severity of the weather. Last winter, our fleet of 80 gritters completed more than 10,000 runs, regularly treating more than half the 5,800 miles of road in one of England’s largest and in places most remote networks.
The fleet, which is on call 24 hours a day, is complemented by more than 100 farm contractors, who can be called in to help to keep the traffic moving.
County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said: “We place the highest priority on helping traffic to keep moving safely in winter. It’s vital to residents and businesses. We grit as required to keep our roads open. Our first priority is major routes that connect or go through the county’s towns, followed by routes that give access to smaller communities.
“People may recently have seen media reports suggesting the risk of a shortage of drivers in parts of the country. We can reassure people that in North Yorkshire we have sufficient drivers and robust systems in place to ensure we can operate our full complement of gritters.
“Our salt stores are well stocked, with 55,000 tonnes of salt – enough to fill 21 Olympic-size swimming pools – plus about 8,000 grit heaps and bins, and we have a strong relationship with a local supplier.”
This winter 18 new gritters join the fleet in a £2.2m investment to replace some of the 80 vehicles. We have a policy that none of our gritters should be more than eight years old and the average age of the whole fleet should be less than five. Currently, the average age of fleet vehicles is just over three and a half years.
The new vehicles join the NY Highways fleet. NY Highways is a company created by ourselves this year to take on the role of maintaining the county’s roads. Managing director Ross Bullerwell is looking forward to the company’s first winter.
He said: “We are well prepared. We have a strong team of drivers and a refreshed fleet of vehicles. The investment gives us a very young fleet, which will help us to ensure we deliver a successful winter programme to keep the roads safe and clear for users.”
We continue to use the latest technology to enhance the efficiency of our gritting operation to achieve the best possible results and value for money, without compromising safety.
To this end, last winter we took advantage of improvements in the ability of gritters to spread more accurately, enabling a move towards lower minimum salt spread rates, which can bring savings of up to £120,000.
Cllr Mackenzie said: “This change is in no way a reduction in our services and will not compromise the safety of our roads. It enables us to use our resources to maximum effect. We remain committed to maintaining the level of service that sees us routinely treat a greater proportion of our network than any other council in England. We always ensure salt spread rates are right for the weather conditions.”
Road users across North Yorkshire will also benefit this winter from additional travel information transmitted from ten new weather stations. These stations mean the county has the most up-to-date, extensive range of weather stations in the country. They will give decision makers more detailed knowledge of prevailing weather conditions over some of the highest and most exposed roads in the county.
The sites will be equipped with solar-powered cameras that will transmit images displayed on the our website, enabling the public to see road conditions before beginning a journey.
The weather stations are on high, remote roads, such as the B6255 at Ribblehead, A6068 at Cowling Moss and C20 at Blakey Ridge and at the Hole of Horcum on the A169 on the North York Moors.
Cllr Mackenzie said: “This state-of-the-art equipment gives invaluable, up-to-the-minute information about the state of some of our highest roads. With the data and images provided by these stations, we hope the public will be able to make more informed, safer, journey choices during winter.”
Cllr Mackenzie added: “While we do everything we can to keep traffic moving during severe winter weather, it is important for drivers to drive with caution and consider whether their journey is absolutely necessary.”