Lockdown hampers winter road snow and ice clearance, say highways chiefs

Richmond pictured from above at the weekend.

Fewer vehicles on the roads due to the lockdown meant keeping the roads snow and ice-free during the recent bad weather was more difficult, say highways chiefs.

County council officials say deep snow and sub-zero temperatures across Richmondshire and other parts of North Yorkshire in recent days created treacherous conditions for county council highways teams working round the clock.

With icy conditions, sleet and snow set to continue later this week and some areas expected to see sub-zero temperatures prevail into this weekend and beyond, North Yorkshire County Council said it was continuing to run its winter highways service at full throttle.

Gritting crews have been on hand to treat the roads, with some runs starting at 4am, and road users were urged to take extra care and only make essential journeys.

Strong winds blew snow back onto the roads in some places, and road and air temperatures reached as low as -8ºC causing widespread ice.

Terry Wood, advanced nurse practitioner in the emergency department at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, thanked the gritting teams for enabling him a safe journey to work from his home in Wensleydale.

He said: “My main route via the B6255 Newby Head was completely clear on Monday and had been thoroughly gritted. I expected problems after temperatures of -6ºC overnight but was pleasantly surprised. Well done and thank you.”

Karl Battersby, the county council’s corporate director of business and environmental services, said: “I would like to thank residents for their cooperation while we did our best to tackle the hazardous conditions.

“Our gritting teams are well prepared to tackle wintry weather on the county’s 5,800 miles of roads. The £7m winter maintenance budget sees 54 per cent of the roads gritted on one of England’s largest and in places most remote road networks.

“With traffic flow much lower due to lockdown restrictions, salt had a limited effect and it took longer for conditions to improve.

“As vehicles drive over the salt on the roads, this is what helps clear further snow from the surface. This made it an even tougher task for our teams but they worked tirelessly and deserve recognition.”

Gritters are on call 24 hours a day, farmer contractors, duty managers and overnight patrols are all on standby when necessary.

County Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for access, added: “We have a robust winter gritting service and do our best to keep the county moving.

“The safety of our residents is the top priority, so please be assured that our gritting teams are working around the clock to respond to poor conditions.

“We are urging drivers to be aware that although most of the snow has disappeared, ice will continue to cause hazards on the roads. Please drive with caution and allow extra time for your essential journeys.”

The county council said it used the latest weather forecasting technology in planning its gritting operations.

This includes ice prediction weather stations, a 24-hour weather forecast and road temperature sensor data.

For live updates of road conditions on North Yorkshire’s roads please visit www.northyorks.gov.uk/road-cameras-and-weather-conditions