Highways chiefs confident about Kirklees gritting plans ahead of winter weather

Council chiefs in Kirklees are bullish about gritting the borough’s roads during adverse winter weather.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 10:29 am
Gritting in Kirklees will not be affected by a national shortage of HGV drivers, say council chiefs.

Council chiefs in Kirklees are bullish about gritting the borough’s roads during adverse winter weather.

They say pre-planning will head off any concerns around HGV driver shortages, which have affected local authorities in other parts of the country.

The council is confident that buying up rock salt over the summer means the district will not run short – even if there are issues on a national level.

And if it was to run out, it could fall back on central government reserves.

The council has set aside £1.8m for its winter maintenance policy.

It anticipates running a 27-week schedule – which started on October 18 and is set to last until mid-April – dealing with just over half of the borough’s 1,200 miles of roads.

More than 1,400 grit bins across the district are scheduled to be filled at least three times between October and the spring of 2022 from stocks of rock salt totalling 25,000 tonnes.

When it comes to gritting, the council’s highways team prioritises what are known as “principal routes” – the main roads through Kirklees (predominantly A and B roads and bus routes) with the highest volumes of traffic.

That gives drivers the best chance of continuing to move safely.

Last year, including during the emerging Covid-19 pandemic, more than 100 gritting patrols took place.

In September the government introduced temporary visas for thousands of lorry drivers to work in the UK as a result of falling numbers attributed to Covid, Brexit and tax changes.

A survey by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimated the shortage in the UK topped 100,000 qualified drivers.

That included foreign drivers from EU member states who had previously lived and worked in the UK.

In Kirklees the council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Naheed Mather, said: “We have built flexibility and resilience into our service and have arrangements in place to deal with the unplanned absence of drivers.

” We are also continuing to train new additional drivers with HGV licences across our front-line services.”

She added: “Each year, during the summer, the council purchases rock salt to restore our working salt stock prior to winter.

“In addition to this, since 2010, the council also holds additional strategic reserve salt stocks. As such we are confident we have adequate stock and reserves locally to deal with any issues that may affect national salt supply.”

Kirklees also works together with other authorities on “a mutual aid basis” should any authority experience shortages in their supplies.

In addition the government and the Department for Transport have an emergency salt reserve protocol for periods of severe prolonged winter weather that local authorities can access if a salt shortage occurs.

In 2018 the council spent just over £5m on winter maintenance – more than double the anticipated amount – due the impact of severe snow storms, freezing rain and icy roads brought by “the Beast from the East”.