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Gritting roads – is it important?

January 4, 2018 2:40 PM

Road gritter

At the Council's Environment, Development and Transport Committee meeting on 20 October 2017 one of the proposed Tory budgets cuts was to reduce the number of roads gritted in winter. This would mean a 200K cut in 2018/19.

The County Council has a legal duty, as far as is reasonably practicable, for ensuring safe passage along a highway is not endangered by ice and snow.

The Council does not grit all of Norfolk's 5,965 mile road network because of the time it would take and the cost involved. The Council has a policy which sets out which types of road are a priority for gritting. Priorities for gritting roads have been established on the basis of the route hierarchy and level of use.

In fact, it is currently only 34% of the road network that is gritted and the budget cut would reduce this to 30% of roads.

How do you decide which roads to grit?

The Council decides when and where to grit based on the latest weather data. The main roads are gritted before other routes. The Council's three hour gritting runs covers a total of 2,081 miles on A, B and some C class roads - commuter and major bus routes and, as far as is possible, one route into all villages.

Some footways in the pedestrian areas of central King's Lynn, central Great Yarmouth and central Norwich are also treated as priority. Highways England treats 143 miles of trunk roads including the A11and A47.

The policy on which roads to treat on a priority basis has been developed over a number of years and is reviewed annually.

You can see a map of the roads that are currently gritted

https://norfolkcc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Viewer/index.html?appid=d16d38b40a7e44b4a835d8ce168410f9

and the Council's Winter Maintenance Policy at:

https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/what-we-do-and-how-we-work/policy-performance-and-partnerships/policies-and-strategies/roads-and-travel-policies/winter-maintenance-policy

What is the effect of the budget cuts?

The Council achieve the cut by carrying out an in-depth assessment of the road network in Norfolk in order to re-prioritise which roads should still be gritted. The changes would not be implemented until gritting routes were re-designed ready for the winter gritting season starting in October 2018. The Norwich Northern Distributor Road will be added to the gritting schedule as sections become open for general use.

The budget cut would also mean that any requests received from communities to add roads to the Council's gritting list would be unlikely to be included in the future.

However, if a local Town or Parish Council wish to fund a grit bin, the request will be reviewed and assessed in accordance with the current Council policy on grit bin provision.

Road Safety

Norfolk's road safety record is appalling - it is significantly worse than England and the trend is not changing significantly for:

  • killed and seriously injured (KSI) on the roads
  • motorcyclists KSI (aged 15-24)
  • car occupants KSI (aged 15-24)

Casualty figures for the rolling year to end of September 2017 are:

  • Number of people killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions - 412
  • Number of children (under 16) killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions - 23
  • Number of people slightly injured in road traffic collisions - 2,035

Liberal Democrat View

In a rural county such as Norfolk road gritting is essential as it allows us to get around the county when the weather is snowy and icy. The Tory cut is disproportionally unfair for such a small amount of budget - 200K is a drop in the ocean in the council's budget yet it will see 4% of roads not being gritted in 2018/19. Actually it might be more than 4% once the Norwich Northern Distributor Road is factored in.

This is a cut that will directly affect people's lives. For those of you who have had an accident in a car you will know what we mean.

It is also a case of left and right hand at the council being at cross purposes. Public Health is running campaigns to try to improve road safety - this is critical we must make our roads safer yet reducing the number of roads being gritted actually makes them less safe.

Liberal Democrats will oppose this budget cut. It affects our communities particularly the rural ones so heavily for a small amount of budget where a saving elsewhere can easily be found. It is about priorities - ours are to support our communities and not cut front line services.

We believe that this budget cut is not worth the risk of one person losing their life on an ungritted road.