Gritting runs drop despite winter snow

DESPITE suffering the coldest winter for 30 years, Suffolk used less grit on the roads – and had fewer gritting runs – than last year.

The county used 23,500 tonnes of grit on its roads this winter – last year the total was 26,300 tonnes.

There were 95 runs on “priority one” routes – compared with 108 during 2008/9.

However, Guy McGregor, Suffolk’s cabinet member with responsibility for transport, put the reduction in grit and gritting runs firmly down to government.

“The fact is that we had our grit rationed from the start of January so we had to be very careful about how much we used,’’ Mr McGregor said.

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“We were very parsimonious with how we used it – but I think we did a good job of keeping the county moving.”

Mr McGregor said it had been the toughest winter he had been involved with during his time as a county councillor.

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“In a sense I was only the public face of the operation – telling people what we were doing. The people who really had it tough were the gritter drivers and the staff keeping them on the road.

“For them it was 12-hours on and 12-hours off during the worst of the weather. We will be having representatives of them along at our meeting on Thursday (today) to hear the thanks of the council,” he said.

Mr McGregor admitted there had been times when it looked as if the grit could run out.

“Things did get hairy after the government took over the allocation of the salt and grit supplies. We were lucky in that we sourced our grit from Cleveland.

“At one stage a boat filled with grit came into Ipswich in the nick of time.”

The council was unable to treat “priority two” routes after grit rationing was introduced in January – and the length and harshness of the winter did give people the chance to adjust their behaviour.

“I think people did come to cope with the conditions, but it has been a long hard slog – I don’t think anyone will forget this winter in a hurry,” Mr McGregor added.

Andrew Howard is head of road safety at the AA and said people had quickly forgotten how harsh the previous winter had been.

He added: “I know some people will say ‘why didn’t the authorities have more grit in store’ but you can be sure that if they did and we had a very mild winter people would be asking why they had wasted their money on supplies that are not needed.”

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