With winter fast approaching, highways teams in Somerset are ready to grit 720 miles of road every time frost, ice or snow is predicted.
Because of the huge financial pressures facing Somerset County Council due to falling Government funding combined with rising costs and demand for services, a decision to reduce the budget available for precautionary gritting of the county’s road network was one of several recently taken by the authority’s Cabinet.
The Council’s emergency response to severe snow or prolonged ice is unaffected, as are the arrangements to employ farmers and snowplough operators to clear snow when required.
The vast majority of roads in the county have never been gritted, but this year the precautionary gritting network – the roads that are gritted as a matter of course when temperatures are predicted to drop below 1C – is being reduced.
This year it makes up 17 per cent (720 miles) of the total road network – instead of the 21 per cent (900 miles) in previous years. You can check which roads are included in the map at www.travelsomerset.co.uk/gritting where you can zoom in and search by location or road name.
Councillor John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “We have to live within our means with greatly reduced funding and that means we’ve had to make some very difficult decisions in order to balance our budget. The one affecting our winter service was certainly one of the toughest. We’d rather not be in this position but we have had to look closely at all spending to see where savings can be found.
“I’d urge road users to check our winter service information at www.travelsomerset.co.uk/gritting which includes the routes which will be gritted in the event of ice and snow together with winter driving advice.
“We’ll still be gritting 720 miles of road but it’s really important to stress that the vast majority of roads have never been gritted. Ice can still form even on gritted roads and our advice remains to always take extra care when on any road in winter and avoid unnecessary travel in periods of extreme weather.
“We also want to make it clear that our established emergency plans for times of snow, such as during last year’s Beast from the East, are not affected by these changes. We’ll continue to work alongside the emergency services to maintain access to our communities.”
Throughout the winter you can check when the gritters are in action and receive live travel information and road alerts by following the Council’s dedicated highways Twitter account – @TravelSomerset. Or visit www.travelsomerset.co.uk/gritting for searchable maps and further information about winter maintenance and driving in bad weather.