Cumbria's gritters out in force ahead of expected period of "harsh" winter weather

WINTER maintenance activity is being stepped up by Cumbria County Council to help cope with an expected spell of snow and harsh winter weather.

The council’s fleet of gritters have begun treating some of the county’s minor roads which are not routinely gritted as a precautionary measure against a predicted wintery blast of snow from the west from tonight.

Cumbria’s roads are prioritised in terms of how quickly and frequently they are gritted. Cumbria’s first and second priority roads make up around a third of the road network and are gritted within three and five hours during harsh winter weather.

Third priority routes are only treated during periods of prolonged icy conditions and when the first and second priority roads are clear. Gritters have begun treating third priority routes in necessary areas and will continue today as a precautionary measure.

Footways in town centres will also be treated today.

Highways teams will also be prioritising requests for salt bin and salt heap refills over the next few days and are on standby to switch from routine highways maintenance work to snow clearance duties. The council currently has 22,000 tonnes of salt in stock - meaning the county council is in an excellent position to cope with the winter weather.

The council’s new band of volunteer snow champions will also be on standby to help clear footways and pavements where they live. So far around 70 people have volunteered to help as snow champions.

Travel disruption is expected on Friday and people are being asked to plan ahead and think now about whether alternative travel arrangements can be made if the predicted heavy snowfall happens.

Coun Tony Markley, Cabinet member responsible for highways, said: “I always believe in planning for the worst and hoping for the best. This bout of expected snowy weather could be the biggest test so far this winter for our highways teams, but I believe they’ve done a cracking job so far of keeping the roads safe in winter.

“We’ve invested heavily in our new fleet of 33 gritters and the decision to bring the highways maintenance service back in house from Amey has proved a wise one in terms of delivering on the front line.”

Last month CCC launched an innovative new online map and Twitter service so that people can keep track of gritting plans during the winter months.

The map, which can be viewed on the council's website at www.cumbria.gov.uk/gritting, is updated each lunchtime to show which roads the council’s in-house fleet of gritters intend to treat that evening and overnight during periods of snowy and frosty weather. The decision on whether to grit or not is triggered by the council’s network of monitoring equipment checking road surface temperatures right around the county.

The fully interactive and downloadable map is keeping Cumbria's road users up to date with the latest information regarding which areas of Cumbria will be gritted as first and secondary priority routes and the treatment timescales for each.

Gritting updates from the new online service can also be tracked through Cumbria County Council's Twitter account at @CumbriaCC and by subscribing to an RSS feed at www.cumbria.gov.uk/gritting/rss.xml.

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