County plans for another harsh winter

SUFFOLK may be enjoying the first truly warm spell of the year, but highways chiefs are preparing for another harsh winter.

This year there should be more salt in store at the start of the season – but there could still be problems if there is a repeat of last winter.

New technology should tell gritters where and when the salt is needed – but secondary routes could again be left untreated if there are any doubts about the amount of salt or grit in store.

And there was a blunt warning from weather experts – statistically harsh winters go in three to five-year phases so we could be in for another big freeze in a few months’ time.

The “winter wash-up” brings together highways managers from the county council, the Highways Agency and other organisations – from weather forecasters to salt suppliers – to try to learn the lessons from the winter.

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Yesterday’s meeting at the county council’s Belstead House centre brought together 20 experts to share their knowledge.

Suffolk highways manager Graeme Lewin said the construction of new depots in Lowestoft and at Goddard Road in Ipswich would increase the capacity to store salt.

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“That will mean we should have more at the start of the winter – we should be fully stocked by October – but if we have another winter like this year we still have to be careful about how we use it.”

The county actually used less salt this year than it did the previous winter because it had to stop gritting secondary routes when the salt started to run out.

However, Mr Lewin said that if officials had not had to ration salt the amount would have increased significantly.

But despite the bad weather and the lack of salt on all but primary routes, there were fewer road accidents this year than last year.

Mr Lewin said: “The weather this year was so bad it was obvious that drivers had to take care and on the whole they did.

“The previous winter was very cold and frosty but there was not so much snow and quite often it seemed as if drivers did not realise the danger that there was on the roads.”

The amount of money spent by the council on treating roads was �3.3million – �1m more than had originally been budgeted.

Mr Lewin said: “Given the nature of the problem, the cost was not the main issue – we had to do all we could to keep the roads of Suffolk open.”

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