Winter roads service aims to keep Aberdeenshire on track

Aberdeenshire’s 24-hour winter operations room is now up and running and gritters, salt and roads staff are all ready to go to help keep the area moving as much as possible this winter.

Weather forecasts and actual road surface temperatures are monitored around the clock, to allow crews to react as quickly as possible to changing conditions.

Some of the conditions experienced last year were unprecedented and the roads service’s approach to winter has been reviewed over the last year to try to improve on performance. 

While it can be impossible to keep all surfaces clear and free of ice at all times, a number of changes have been made as we move into this winter to try to minimise the impact of severe weather.

More than 210 staff and over 100 vehicles are geared up to provide support to ensure the region’s residents can travel and operate as freely as possible through potentially challenging conditions.

Furthermore, the council contracts around 120 local farmers to help maintain minor and rural roads when necessary.

More than 22,500 tonnes of salt has been stockpiled in storage locations across Aberdeenshire and will be topped-up during the winter depending on usage. A further delivery is due in shortly.

The council typically uses around 45,000 tonnes of salt each year to ensure that the region’s 3,300 mile road network remains safe for drivers. All roads are categorised into appropriate priority levels.

The primary network is made up of 32 different routes and covers around 30% of Aberdeenshire’s total road network – almost 1,000 miles. These routes are mostly ‘A’ and ‘B’ class roads and other busy commuter routes that connect Aberdeenshire’s main towns and villages.

The aim is to keep priority one roads passable at all times unless weather conditions are abnormally severe. These roads will always be gritted before any others, including priority two roads.

The primary road network receives preventative treatment with gritters and ploughs starting a morning treatment at 5.30am and finishing an evening treatment no later than 9pm each day when necessary.

To reduce instances of unnecessary gritting, sub-zero road temperatures need to be forecast for 48 hours before priority three roads are treated.

As well as looking after the region’s roads, the council will also treat footways and cycle paths, also split into priority levels.

The intention is to keep priority one footways in a safe condition for pedestrians, except during storm conditions. These footways are typically in busy urban areas, near shops, businesses, and medical and community facilities.

Footways won’t be treated before 8am, except in exceptional circumstances when heavy snowfall is forecast. Cycle paths will be prioritised and treated similarly.

To allow residents to self-treat nearby roads and footways there are around 1,750 grit bins located across Aberdeenshire – 350 more than last year. Residents can apply for a grit bin or ask for a refill here: http://bit.ly/AshireGritBin

Emergency action will be carried out between 10pm and 5.30am at the request of Police Scotland. This retains the council’s 24-hour service capability while ensuring a level of consistency.

Chair of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Peter Argyle, said: “Now that winter has arrived, our residents and commuters should be assured that we are highly prepared. But we are also realistic and looking back at last winter, when there are extreme conditions we do the best we can, and road users have to be aware of those conditions and drive accordingly, sometimes not at all.

“As ever, our teams will be working tirelessly over the winter period to ensure our roads, footways and cycle paths remain safe and passable for travelers whenever possible and we will continue to look to improve the service we provide with the resources available to us.”

Vice chair, John Cox, added: “Hopefully the area won't continue to be too affected by wintry weather in coming months, beyond what we’re used to, and our residents will be able to travel around the region and go about their normal business as much as possible.

“However, it is important that we are prepared for the worst and while our service will be working hard on the ground, I would also remind drivers and pedestrians to take care on our roads and footways at all times – nowadays there is a huge range of ways to stay informed about the impact of weather events and people should make use of these to plan journeys as much as possible.”

For more information on the council’s winter maintenance programme see: http://bit.ly/grittingroutes

To see the council’s planned gritting for each day, go to: http://bit.ly/GritterInteractive

For information on road closures and restrictions, see: http://bit.ly/closures_rest

Applications are now being taken for Aberdeenshire’s volunteer snow warden scheme, aimed at supporting and assisting communities and individuals to increase their resilience to winter weather. For more information, see here: http://bit.ly/2pJltAJ

You can also follow roads updates from the team on Twitter @AbshireRoads