Councils cut gritting activity by 29% in two years

There has been a 29 per cent drop in the number of days councils spend gritting roads over the last two years, according to new data.

As many parts of the country struggle with snow and ice on the roads, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that even in a period when the Beast from the East struck, local authorities cut back on gritting activity by more than a quarter.

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According to the data gathered from councils by Citroen UK, the average number of days each council gritted its roads fell from 74 in 2017/18 to 52.5 in 2019/20.

That’s despite the period of appalling conditions brought about by 2018’s Beast from the East, which, according to the Royal Meteorological Society, brought the worst winter conditions since 2010 and prompted rare red weather warnings and widespread disruption for more than 10 days.

Untreated roads create difficult driving conditions (Photo: Shutterstock)Untreated roads create difficult driving conditions (Photo: Shutterstock)
Untreated roads create difficult driving conditions (Photo: Shutterstock)
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As Storm Darcy brings more snow and icy conditions for huge parts of the country, drivers face the prospect of roads being even more treacherous than in previous years, with less clearing of snow and less of the grit treatments that help melt surface ice and improve grip.

The figures revealed clear geographical differences, with gritters in Scotland and the north of England predictably putting in far more work than those in the south. Scottish Borders Council was the most active, spending a total of 203 days a year treating its roads. Its neighbour to the south, Northumberland County Council, spent an average of 144 days treating roads.

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The research also asked local authorities whether they had specific snow route plans in place. Snow routes are specific roads and routes which are given priority treatment during periods of particularly heavy snow or cold conditions. These are usually main roads and those that carry public transport services. Of the councils who responded only half said they had specific snow routes in place.

Motorists in England and Wales can check which roads their council will grit in snowy weather using this tool. In Scotland, individual council websites list their priority routes and Traffic Scotland has a live tracker of planned gritting routes.