Gritters having a quiet year so far

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A mild winter has meant the county’s gritting lorries have been out just 23 times so far.

But, if the cold weather does finally hit Northamptonshire, the lorries will be out in force, covering thousands of miles to make the county’s roads as safe as possible.

Approximately 1,128 miles of county roads – the distance from London to Rome – receives precautionary salting when temperatures start to plummet.

It costs Northamptonshire County Council on average £32,000 to employ service provider MGWSP to send out their 27 gritting lorries for each salting run.

MGWSP communications manager for Rebecca Miller said: “The seven months from October until the end of April are identified as the winter season for us to monitor and salt the county’s roads as required – this is when all our crews are on standby to deal with the winter weather.

“We receive weather forecasts and use our local knowledge of the network to work out what the likelihood of frost or snow is.

“If necessary, we monitor the situation on an hour-by-hour basis before making decisions to send our crews out to salt the roads.

“We receive a morning summary text at 7am each day and then receive a 24-hour forecast at about noon, along with an evening update at 5.30pm.

“We don’t just rely on forecasts, though – we have five weather stations so that we can monitor the road conditions to make sure people can travel safely.”

The county’s roads have been gritted just 23 times this winter, with the last run carried out on Friday morning, when road temperatures were down to -0.5C.

This is in stark contrast to the same period last year, when the county was covered by a blanket of snow as temperatures plummeted below zero.

As reported in the Evening Telegraph at the time, the council had done just three runs by the end of November 2011 compared with 13 at the same time in 2010 – saving about £100,000.

Priority is given to roads carrying the highest volume of traffic and where the risk of accidents is greatest.

The A43 and A6003 from Corby to Kettering, the A43 between Kettering and Northampton, the A6 from Kettering to Rushden and the A509 from Kettering to Wellingborough are some of the main roads salted in the first instance.

The initial precautionary salting run covers 45 per cent of the county’s roads.

In prolonged adverse weather conditions, where the forecasted conditions are unlikely to improve and the temperature is not expected to rise above freezing for at least 48 hours, additional roads such as residential streets will be treated.

In the event of snow, roads will be cleared according to their priority status and need. Trunk roads or major roads such as the A14 and the M1 are gritted by the Highways Agency.

If severe weather conditions persist, the county council may decide to grit pavements and cycle routes with assistance from local councils.

These would include, for example, pedestrian routes in the main shopping areas of towns.

But despite the efforts to grit as many roads as possible, Ms Miller said people should not assume that it is safe to get behind the wheel.

She added: “Decisions on what action is to be taken are based on road temperatures rather than air temperatures, and salting is likely whenever road temperatures are 1C or below.

“Salting is normally carried out after the evening peak traffic period or before the morning rush, because frost does not usually affect the road surface until late evening or early morning.

“Despite all our efforts, winter conditions will still make roads treacherous even if they have been treated.

“People should be aware of the conditions, reduce speeds and drive with caution.”