Road gritting: All you need to know about keeping our roads safe this winter
Winter manager Gordon Thackeray with Highways England has spoken about the scale of the task facing gritters
The North East welcomed it’s first – albeit brief – snowfall on Tuesday morning.
Forecasters are predicting a good chance of frost and continued chilly weather throughout the region this week.
And with winter’s plunging temperatures showing no signs of slowing anytime soon, the need to keep our region’s roads safe becomes increasingly important.
Work behind the scenes with Highways England has been underway for months preparing for all eventualities in the harshest winter months.
And speaking at Highways England’s depot in Ferryhill, County Durham, winter manager Gordon Thackeray has talked us through the scale of the operation and the plans in place to ensure to keep the North East roads moving:
What is the size of the operation in the North East?
Highways England operates out of four depots in the North East – Alnwick, Ferryhill, and by junctions 57 and 62 of the A1(M).
Mr Thackeray said: “We have got more than 500 salt spreaders throughout the network – in this area we have 21.
“There’s 280,000 tonnes of salt at our depots with access to additional reserves. We have got a depot here (Ferryhill) with 4,500 tonnes which is pretty normal.
“Driver-wise, we have enough drivers to staff and man all of our gritters.
“We cover from the Scottish Borders to Dishforth, and then from Middlesbrough to the Cumbrian border of the A66.”
When does planning for the winter weather begin?
While the forecasts are not available until a much later date, preparations for the busier winter months begins towards the end of spring.
Mr Thackeray said: “From the end of April to the beginning of October the whole fleet is inspected to make sure it’s ready to go.
“We get some indication from the Met Office on what to expect towards the end of November.
“The main thing is we are prepared for it and we are used to some severe weather in the North East.”
How busy does Highways England get over the winter months?
Mr Thackeray said: “The normal frost is what we deal with on a daily basis.
“We have done 68 treatments across the network so far, and on average we’ll be expecting 1,300 incidents.”
How far in advance do the forecasts allow you to prepare?
Highways England receive weather forecasts based upon the road networks from the Met Office, and Mr Thackeray said his team can call for support from neighbouring regions if needed,
Mr Thackeray said: “The forecast we get is a little different from what most people see. We get specific forecasts for road motorways.
“We get our forecasts around lunchtime and an updated one from the Met Office at about 6pm.
“If there is any indication of snow, we will look to organise a number of drivers.”
Is there anything road users can do to help?
Mr Thackeray added: “If road users can be prepared themselves by looking at weather forecasts and any weather warning and asking themselves if they really need to make the journey.
“If so, prepare for any eventuality. We prepare as best we can and any assistance from the public will be much appreciated.”