Staff receive training to ensure flexible approach to roads winter maintenance programme

Staff from across Aberdeenshire Council are receiving training to enable a more flexible response to this year’s roads winter maintenance programme.

The council has identified roads winter maintenance as a critical activity and, as such, it will take priority over some other less critical activities should the need arise.

While the council is not proposing any reduction in its winter maintenance standards, it is developing contingency plans which recognise that Covid-19 has the potential to severely impact staff availability.

Those contingency measures could result, for example, in longer treatment times for routes.

Philip McKay, Heads of Roads, Landscape Services and Waste Management, explained: “Our salt stock plans remain as they were pre-Covid. We will start the season with salt stocks at their maximum level – 29,000 tonnes – and, as in any year, we will receive deliveries throughout the winter from our suppliers.

“Our salt contract includes alternative suppliers should any one of the supply chains become affected.”

The council’s Winter Plan includes a resilience road network focusing on the top priority roads within Aberdeenshire in the event that any resource - whether staff, salt, vehicles or fuel - becomes severely restricted.

Mr McKay continued: “Covid measures such as staggered start/stop times to ensure physical distancing together with enhanced vehicle-cleaning regimes do have an operational impact, but we are managing these to minimise any impact on the travelling public.

“As with many Covid-affected activities, we will need to work in partnership with the public. If we do experience spells of very severe weather or our ability to carry out winter maintenance activities is reduced, we would ask that people reconsider their travel plans, make allowances for the conditions and make sure they are well prepared.”

Aberdeenshire Council has a fleet of 54 gritters, support vehicles and more than 200 dedicated roads staff who keep the area moving and ensure our residents and businesses can travel and operate as freely as possible through potentially challenging conditions.

The council also contracts local farmers to help maintain minor and rural roads wherever necessary.

Typically, the local authority will use around 45,000 tonnes of salt annually to ensure that the region’s 3,424-mile road network remains safe for drivers.

Round the clock, the council's roads team carefully monitors both weather forecasts and actual road surface temperatures to ensure crews react as quickly as possible to changing conditions.

In addition to looking after the region’s roads, the council treats footpaths and cycle routes which are again prioritised. Around 1,750 grit bins are also located across Aberdeenshire to enable residents to self-treat nearby roads and footways.

Readyscotland.org provides useful information on how people can prepare themselves for winter and other emergencies.