12 October 2020
The Highland Council’s winter maintenance service commences on 14 October 2020, continuing through until 14 April 2021.
Within its winter roads maintenance budget of £5 million for 2020/21, the Council is ready to salt – according to its policy – the 6,766km of roads for which the Council has responsibility. Area Winter Maintenance Plans are set by Area Committees within Council strategy and budget allocated by the Economy & Infrastructure Committee.
Chair of the Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Trish Robertson said: “We have the supplies and resources in place to provide a winter service this year in the Highlands according to the Council’s agreed winter maintenance policy. Council roads and pavements are gritted as specified within the council’s policy with the added assurance of mobilisation of extra staff this year. Details of the council’s highland wide and local area gritting policies and maps are on the council’s website at www.highland.gov.uk/gritting.
As in previous years, Highland Council will offer assistance to communities who wish to take action in their own area to help clear snow and ice from footpaths. While the Council does operate a fleet of footpath tractors, the resources available are simply insufficient to clear every path in the region. We recognise that communities may be able to assist with treating a more extensive path network or target the treatment of highly trafficked areas earlier than the Council.
The Council will assist with the provision of salt in either bins or heaps, snow shovels and pushers, gloves and hi-viz vests, Health and Safety advice to volunteers and public liability insurance. It is a condition of the scheme that volunteers must register their intention to assist via their local Community Council – through which the scheme is administered.
Full guidance and an application Form can be found on the Council’s website at: https://www.highland.gov.uk/downloads/download/836/winter_resilience_community_aid
There have been no changes to this year’s winter policy so service levels throughout the local Areas will remain, essentially, unchanged from last year. The service will commence at 6am each day as and when required. There will be a Monday to Friday service in which all roads are treated and a weekend service which includes treatment of all the Primary routes, strategic Secondary routes and difficult ‘Other’ routes. The service will be provided within the resources available and as weather conditions permit.
The Council can confirm it has adequate salt stocks with supplies continuing to be delivered through October and it is expected that approximately 45,000 tonnes will be in storage ready for the start of the main winter season. The Council has no concerns about future provision of salt deliveries. The total salt usage for last winter (2019/20) was 48,000 tonnes, which was less than previous years reflecting what was a milder than average winter. The cost of the salt for winter 2019/20 was in the order of £1.68 million.
The winter fleet mobilisation programme is substantially complete and includes vehicle servicing and calibration of salt spreading equipment. The Council’s winter fleet includes 105 gritters, 42 footpath tractors, 2 snowblowers and over 200 staff providing winter maintenance services.
This year (2020/21) the Council has made provision for the replacement of 10 vehicles in its heavy fleet; eight of which have arrived with the remainder to be delivered later this month. On completion of this latest order the Council will have invested a further £1.5 million in its winter fleet.
Staff involved in winter services provision at area level are trained in using the Council’s weather forecasting service. The forecasts are used each day to assist local decision-making on daily and longer-term winter services actions.
Service delivery during Covid-19 – risk factors
The arrival of Covid-19 during 2020 has presented the Council with significant challenges and there remains uncertainty as to what level of transmission may occur within the Highland area over the coming winter. Motorists and members of the public must recognise that despite the Council taking all necessary precautions there is still a risk, that should an outbreak occur within one of our larger depots, the level of service provided may be affected due to the need of driver(s) to self-isolate. Should this occur resources will be supplemented, where possible, with drivers who have the correct licence requirements from within the Council. Subsequently this could have a knock-on affect in the delivery of other services such as Waste and Amenities.
In a worst-case scenario, it may be necessary to reduce the extent of the road network treated at any one time. This may result in the shifting of resources to concentrate on the treatment of the Primary and Secondary networks only. Alternatively, it may be the case that the whole network continues to be treated but it is late afternoon or the next day before all the minor roads and residential streets are treated. The Council is required to adhere to the driver’s hours regulations which limits the length of time a driver can operate a vehicle so driver resources are not limitless.
For further information visit www.highland.gov.uk/gritting