AROUND 10 per cent of West Berkshire’s primary roads will be downgraded to secondary routes during the winter months as the council attempts to save thousands of pounds on its gritting budget.
Each year, West Berkshire Council grits the district’s A and B roads (as well as some strategically-important C-roads) whenever a frost or ice is forecast, while secondary routes are only gritted once frosty or icy conditions have been experienced for at least 72 hours.
And so, in an effort to shave £70,000 from its highways budget, West Berkshire Council will be downgrading 20 miles of the district’s primary routes to secondary routes throughout the winter, starting on Monday.
The decision was taken by the full council as part of the unprecedented cuts package voted through in March and makes up a saving of around 10 per cent from the highways budget.
While the council has said the safety of drivers remains a primary concern, motorists are advised to take extra care when travelling during cold weather.
West Berkshire’s executive member for highways and transport Jeanette Clifford said: “Our winter service plan is ready to go and we will be working hard to ensure residents will be able to continue going about their daily lives with as little disruption to the roads as possible.
“Following the decision made by council earlier this year, around 20 miles of roads will no longer qualify for precautionary gritting.
“However, we have tried our best to maintain a connected network by making sure transport hubs, bus routes, hospitals, GP surgeries and larger schools remain accessible.
“While we treat key routes some roads will not be treated and drivers should be prepared and allow more time for their journey and take extra care when travelling during cold weather.”
Another change to the winter service is the transfer of responsibility of some salt bins to town and parish councils.
West Berkshire Council will no longer be providing its 234 salt bins for the highways network but town and parish councils have agreed to adopt 213 of them and will maintain them in future.
Decisions about when to grit roads are triggered by cold and other weather alerts from the MeteoGroup and flood alerts from the Environment Agency.
West Berkshire Council’s contractor, VolkerHighways, has 1,000 tonnes of salt stockpiled at the council’s Chieveley depot with a further 1,500 tonnes of additional salt which is stored by the council off-site.
A snow clearance plan is also in place, which aims to keep almost half (48.5 per cent) the highway network available when it snows, with priority given to bus routes and access routes to schools and GP surgeries.
Information about routes that have been gritted is provided in real time on the West Berkshire Council website and will begin once the winter weather plan is instigated.
This winter, around 20 miles of highway primary routes (detailed below) will become secondary routes.