Council discusses winter roads preparation

A key committee of Aberdeenshire’s councillors has discussed the work being undertaken to ensure that the authority’s roads can withstand the coming winter weather.

Members of the Infrastructure and Services Committee met last week, and took the opportunity to a approve amendments to the roads winter maintenance operational plan.

Head of Roads and Landscape Services, Philip McKay, explained that the council’s approach is reviewed annually and that a three stage action plan for future development had been created - the first of which would be progressed ahead of the coming season.

Presently, Aberdeenshire Council is responsible for maintaining nearly 3,500 miles of road and just under 1,000 miles of footpaths. Just over 1,000 miles of roads have been identified as part of a ‘priority network’ for winter treatment.

The treatment regime on the Priority Network involves the spreading of salt in the early morning and/or early evenings as a preventative measure to stop the formation of frost and ice. The remainder of the carriageway network and footways receive treatment after the Priority Network, only if frost, ice or snow conditions are likely to persist.

The council’s fleet includes 92 gritters with ploughs or snow-blowers, and 52 footpath gritter ploughs, involving up to 319 staff during the worst of winter weather. The work is supported by up to 120 tractors with blades operated by farmers, and 32 ploughs operated by contractors. Typically, 40,000 tonnes of salt is used over the winter season, and 70,000 working hours involved in winter maintenance.

Committee vice-chair Cllr Jill Webster said she was keen to see a strong focus on community resilience and encouraging members of the public to do what they can to be prepared for winter.

She also raised matters relating to disruption to education caused by bad weather, and the protection of salt stocks from the elements.

The committee went on to approve amendments to the roads winter maintenance operational plan, with Cllr Argyle commenting: “I think this puts us in a very strong position for the winter that may or may not be before us.”