Travel news: Essex County Council insists it is better prepared this year for icy weather

A HIGHWAYS boss has said Essex is better prepared this winter to deal with a repeat of the national shortage of salt supplies which caused travel chaos last year.

The country is again facing the prospect of icy roads left untreated because reserves have not been fully replenished after the previous harsh winter.

Cllr Norman Hume, who is responsible for highways and transportation on Essex County Council (ECC), acknowledged there was a national issue which was a “throw back to last year”, but insisted Essex was better prepared to keep traffic moving.

“The extreme conditions of last winter placed an immense strain on resources,” he said. “However our gritting crews did a marvellous job, treating the county’s main roads for a record number of days.

“Since then we have ensured that our gritting supplies are back at full capacity so we are ready for this year.”

The council has 14,000 tonnes of gritting salt ready to be spread across the county’s network of major roads, but this may not be enough if there is a repeat of last winter’s conditions when 25,000 tonnes of salt were needed.

Cllr Hume said that Essex “was not Scandinavia” and they could not “put resources in place that were only required in exceptional circumstances”.

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Patrick Gregory, head of winter services at ECC, said that their salt had been treated with an additive which would improve the way it is spread and make their reserves go 25 per cent further.

He added: “We ordered our salt last summer and we have enough to see us through a normal winter. If we do need to resupply there may be other authorities with more urgent needs than us.”

The county has a fleet of 65 gritters with 120 personnel on call over a 24-hour period, operating from six depots across the county.

Gritting resources will be focussed on keeping major roads clear including all A and B roads, access routes for emergency services, rural link roads and major public transport routes.

Catherine Gaywood of ECC winter services said last winter there was concern among businesses about clearing snow from outside their premises in case they were liable for legal action in the event of an accident.

“The government has given new guidance on this issue and help keeping areas like shop fronts clear is being encouraged,” she said.

“People will not be held liable in any way as long as they are sensible and apply common sense.”