New tech could see tweak to winter gritting policy

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Councillors are set to be told how improved technology is being used to more accurately decide when the county's roads need to be gritted.

A report to Lancashire County Council's cabinet next week outlines how more accurate forecasts and improved monitoring technology allow highway teams to predict with a high degree of certainty when road temperatures will fall near freezing.

The county's highways teams monitor the weather throughout the winter to ensure the roads are gritted whenever a freeze is forecast.

A safety margin is built into the decision making process to take account of any variation between weather forecasts and actual road surface temperatures.

The council's current policy is to grit the roads when temperatures are due to fall to 1.0 Celsius or below, with cabinet to consider a proposal to reduce this to 0.5C.

A report to the cabinet meeting due to take place on Thursday 9 August outlines how more reliable weather forecasts and accurate roadside monitoring stations mean the lower margin of error could be safely introduced.

The results of a study into the council's winter gritting operation over the past two years has found that 894 individual routes were treated when temperatures actually stayed above freezing.

Adopting the lower threshold would have saved around £220,000, reduced salt usage by 3,600 tonnes, and reduced downtime by ensuring staff involved in the gritting operation overnight were available for other daytime duties.

The report says that the recommendation to adopt the 0.5C threshold would still allow for any errors in the forecast, and that the council's forecast provider would alert highways officers if it changed for the worse.

A review of practice used by 12 other councils found that some use the same 1.0C intervention level as Lancashire while others only send their gritters out when temperatures are forecast to reach zero.

County Councillor Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "Our gritting crews are on standby 24/7 from October to April, and when low temperatures are forecast we grit the roads as a precaution before frost forms or a weather front arrives, usually during the evening or early hours of the morning.

"The decision on whether to send out the gritters is taken by experienced staff according to the most accurate information available on local weather conditions, as well as data from roadside monitoring equipment around the county.

"This method is very well developed, allowing us to differentiate between conditions on each of 45 routes, so that we only grit those that we need to.

"Our climate means that conditions are often marginal, with road temperatures due to drop near zero at some point over the night, which is why we build in a small margin of error.

"I will ask cabinet to carefully consider this proposal as officers' advice is that we could reduce this from 1.0C to 0.5C without compromising safety, while making significant savings in cost and resources."

Tagged as: Roads, Parking and Travel

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