10 November 2021

Aberdeenshire Council sets winter operations in motion

Aberdeenshire Council is again putting its winter operations into motion to ensure it can respond to whatever the weather throws at it in the coming months.

The authority’s frontline teams were praised for the role they played earlier this year in supporting critical services as a result of the then Covid-19 restrictions and heavy snowfall.

Staff demonstrated outstanding levels of teamwork and dedication under difficult circumstances – with many tackling high snowdrifts to reopen key road links for communities cut off by the heavy snowfall.

Once again, the council is 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.

Depot salt stocks are at full capacity and will continue to be restocked by our 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 that the region’s 3,424-mile road network - and around 1,000 miles of footways - remains safe for all users.

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.

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.

In terms of Aberdeenshire's roads network, all routes are categorised into appropriate priority levels with the primary network being made up of 32 different routes covering 1,081 miles - around 30% of the region's entire road network.

Mostly ‘A’ and ‘B’ class roads, the primary network also include a number of busy commuter routes which keep Aberdeenshire’s main towns and villages connected.

Aberdeenshire Council's over-riding aim is to keep priority one roads passable at all times unless weather conditions are particularly severe. To achieve that these roads will always be gritted before any others.

Philip McKay, Head of Roads and Infrastructure Services, explains: “With winter conditions approaching, preparations by our maintenance support teams are kicking into top gear. Our winter maintenance operational teams, farmers, contractors and snow wardens are also readying themselves for the winter season ahead.

“With the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers and the effects of the pandemic, the supply chain has been stretched throughout Scotland, however we have prepared our rotas in similar fashion to previous years, and at present we don’t envisage any shortages.

“We have been busy in recent weeks restocking all depots with salt and sand, with all plant and equipment undergoing rigorous inspections in readiness for the months ahead.”

When conditions require it, the 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.

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.  Around 1,750 grit bins are strategically located across Aberdeenshire to enable residents to self-treat nearby roads and footways.

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.

This year, Aberdeenshire council will be trialing its new QR code service for grit bins - your mobile phone can take you direct to our grit refilling functions, allowing for faster processing and restocking times. Additionally, this will enable our council to receive usage data every time a member of our public provides us with stock level data, from their local grit bin through the QR code service.

For more information on all our winter services visit: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/roads-and-travel/roads/winter-maintenance/

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

For information on road closures and restrictions, go to: http://bit.ly/Road-closures

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