It may be a frosty start to 2021, but highways staff from Bridgend County Borough Council are working around the clock to keep roads clear and ensure that they are safe for local drivers.
With more than 790km of road located throughout the county borough, the council’s Winter Maintenance Plan lays out how workers will salt roads, clear snow and keep traffic moving during colder weather and when temperatures fall.
The plan identifies priority routes and takes account of centres for the emergency services, bus routes, isolated villages, streets on steep inclines, industrial and shopping areas, schools and approaches to cemeteries, GP surgeries and care homes. It also outlines secondary roads which will be dealt with after the main highways network has been treated.
The council stores up to 4,500 tonnes of salt as well as plans for replenishing stocks during prolonged bouts of severe winter weather. Collaborative arrangements are also in place with neighbouring authorities to give and receive help as required.
Every day, the council receives three specific weather forecasts from MeteoGroup UK. They cover inland high ground, inland low ground and coastal areas to reflect the borough’s varied geographical mix of valleys and coastline.
In addition, the council maintains five remote weather stations at different locations across the county borough. These use equipment such as ice sensors to provide the authority with a range of information including atmospheric conditions and local road surface temperatures, all of which is used to predict what the weather conditions are likely to be, and if further action is necessary.
When temperatures drop, the authority pre-treats the most-used parts of the road network with granulated rock salt to prevent frost and ice forming, and can call upon a number of specially designed vehicles such as gritters to keep roads clear.
Road salting is dependent on a number of factors such as dampness and humidity and gritters don’t lay salt on top of fresh snow as it’s not as effective – when temperatures fall below -10 degrees, road salt no longer works, so the council is very careful about when and how it salts roads.
Routes have to be cleared with ploughs before they can be treated. For pedestrian areas, the council uses specialist equipment to spray brine, a saline solution which helps to melt ice, and workers also clear snow by hand and use snow blowers.
Between them, Bridgend County Borough Council and local town and community councils provide about 400 salt and grit bins across the county borough. These are usually located along residential roads and other minor routes, particularly where there may be junctions or steep hills.
Before the start of each winter season, the bins are filled with a mix of salt and sharp sand which is available for use by residents and motorists to make it easier to travel through local streets when conditions deteriorate.
The council also has plans in place for other frontline services such as Homecare and kerbside recycling and refuse collections, and parents and pupils can check for school closures due to severe weather on a dedicated webpage.
Libraries, leisure centres, swimming pools and other premises can all be affected by severe weather, and while the council and its partners make every effort to keep facilities open, it is not always possible to do so, especially if staff can’t get to work. In situations where a closure is necessary, the authority aims to make this as temporary as possible and to return to resume normal service quickly and safely.
Cllr Richard Young, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “While the council’s Winter Maintenance Plan ensures that the authority is well prepared for severe weather conditions, some events are beyond our control.
“Council staff work around the clock, often in terrible conditions, to provide services and keep the county borough moving, and residents can be assured that we will do all that we can to minimise disruption and inconvenience caused by severe winter weather.