A fleet of 16 gritting lorries has been working hard to keep West Cheshire’s main roads clear from snow and ice.
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s gritters have been out every day since Christmas Day, dealing with the snowfall on Boxing Day night and the coldest night of the year on Sunday.
The gritters cover 620 miles of highway – the equivalent of driving from Chester to Switzerland – but the major trunk network has to be the priority, leaving minor roads untreated.
So on Boxing Day night, Cheshire Police tweeted that roads around Delamere and Frodsham were ‘looking quite treacherous due to weather’ and cautioned motorists to ‘drive with care’. That night Liverpool John Lennon Airport was even caught up in the weather chaos with several flights diverted to Manchester because of snow on the runway.
Not everyone has been happy with the level of service from the gritters.
Paul Owen posted the Chester Chronicle Facebook page to say on Boxing Day evening: “No gritters again when snow was forecast!!! Must all be still drunk from Xmas day!!! What excuse have the highways agency got this time?”
Recent bad winters have seen the council’s highways service and its maintenance contractor Ringway working around the clock, with more than 12,000 tonnes of salt dumped on the network, which is double what would normally be used over a ‘typical’ winter.
To be extra prepared, the council has stockpiled an additional 4,000 tonnes of rock salt at its Guilden Sutton depot.
On nights where frost or icy conditions are forecast, the fleet will spread salt to prevent ice from forming across 40% of the borough’s highways. All gritters are equipped with GPS tracking to enable accurate monitoring of which roads have been treated.
Duty officers mobilise the gritting fleet when it is predicted road surface temperatures will drop below freezing, allowing time for the salt to be applied to the road surface.
Salting is normally completed within four hours and usually before 7am.
Highways teams maintain a close relationship with the Met Office, which monitors roadside weather stations and produces localised forecasts.
At times of continuous snow, staff from Environmental Services also help with the removal of snow from some footpaths and spread salt.
Snow bags, disposable bags filled with salt, are also ready to be delivered to the more remote areas of the borough at times of heavy snow.
A council spokesman said: “It’s particularly important you give yourself extra time to prepare for your journey on a cold morning and don’t drive off until you and your car are ready.
“Please drive safely in poor weather conditions, always carry a fully-charged mobile phone in case of a vehicle breakdown and check the weather forecast before setting out.
“Even if it hasn’t rained overnight, a heavy frost can still make roads slippy. Watch out for icy conditions under bridges, overhanging trees and exposed roads.”
The council adds that clearing snow and ice from the pavement outside your home or public spaces can help prevent slips and falls.
Further information on gritting routes and advice for driving in winter conditions can be found on the council’s website: www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk . For latest gritting news search #cwacgrit on Twitter.