With the darker nights drawing in and temperatures starting to fall, Aberdeenshire Council is once again putting its winter operations into motion to ensure it can respond to whatever the weather throws at it in the coming months.
Staff again demonstrated outstanding levels of teamwork and dedication at the start of the year as they battled to keep the 3,500-mile roads network clear, in particular overcoming the challenges posed by a barrage of ferocious storms.
The council has been restocking our depots to ensure we are at full capacity for the start of the season and will continue to be restocked by its suppliers throughout the winter, ensuring treatments can be actioned as necessary. Typically, the local authority will use around 45,000 tonnes of salt annually to ensure roads and footways remain safe for all users, said the council.
The council has also been busy readying its fleet of 55 gritters, support vehicles and around 300 dedicated Roads and Landscape staff to ensure residents and businesses can travel and operate as freely as possible through potentially challenging conditions.
Philip McKay, Head of Roads and Infrastructure Services, explains: “Once again we saw our teams work tirelessly throughout the last winter to ensure roads and footpaths remained safe and passable wherever possible despite some extremely challenging conditions.
“Our vehicle maintenance teams have been getting our fleet of gritters and support vehicles ready for action so that our residents, commuters and businesses have the confidence that we are prepared for whatever the weather throws at us.
“Of course, we also have to remain realistic and, when there are extreme conditions, while we will always do the best we possibly can, road users must be aware of those conditions and should drive accordingly. Information on weather conditions is regularly communicated through our social media channels and, as appropriate, by our partner organisations such as Police Scotland. It is important during the winter months that you plan your journey appropriately and make yourself aware of the advice and guidance that is provided to help you make the right choice.”
When conditions require it, Aberdeenshire’s primary road network receives preventative treatment with gritters and ploughs starting a morning treatment at 5.40am and finishing an evening treatment no later than 9pm each day. On the minor routes, gritting is undertaken if sub-zero road temperatures are forecast for 48 hours.
Roads officers carefully monitor both weather forecasts and actual road surface temperatures to ensure crews react as quickly as possible to changing conditions. And, while it is impossible to keep all surfaces clear and free of snow and ice at all times, lessons learned from previous years are routinely implemented in a bid to minimise the impact of severe weather.
In addition, the council has contracts in place with around 120 local farmers who will help clear snow from minor rural roads wherever necessary.
Mr McKay adds: “Our over-riding aim is to keep priority one roads passable at all times unless weather conditions are particularly severe. To achieve that, these 32 different routes covering 1,081 miles – that’s around 30% of the region’s entire road network – will always be gritted before any others.
“The primary network – mostly ‘A’ and ‘B’ class roads – also include a number of busy commuter routes which keep Aberdeenshire’s main towns and villages connected.”
In addition to looking after the region’s roads, the council is gearing up to treat footpaths and cycle routes which are also prioritised.
The intention is to keep footways in busy urban areas – near shops, businesses, and medical and community facilities – in as safe a condition for pedestrians as possible. Most footpath treatment is carried out during the normal working day.
Self help by communities is also an important element of the winter maintenance approach and around 2,000 grit bins are strategically located across Aberdeenshire to enable residents to self-treat nearby roads and footways.
The council also has a Volunteer Snow Warden Scheme to actively support members of the local community who wish to offer their spare time to manually clear snow from publicly-adopted footways and footpaths. For more information visit: https://bit.ly/AbshireSnowWardens
Between the hours of 9pm and 5.40am an emergency response is provided if requested by any of the emergency services. This retains the council’s 24-hour service capability while ensuring a level of consistency.
Road users, including pedestrians, are asked to monitor communications closely and take prevailing conditions into account in planning journeys. This year pre-planning is more important than ever.