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Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet has today given the green light for this winter's maintenance plans. The plan includes the county's gritting routes as well as schemes for local communities to have greater involvement in the service in their own areas.
Up to another 85kms of regular frequent bus routes are to be added to the priority routes. Other improvements will result in all schools being served by at least a priority 3 route and no roads being excluded from some level of priority, depending on the level of commitment and weather conditions.
‘Treatment trials’ are set to take place as part of the plans, which will allow local groups to pre-treat and plough local minor roads themselves.
Groups will liaise with the county council about what equipment will be used, treatment times and days and the level of salt supplied. The scheme follows the success of trials that took place last year in Nenthead and Troutbeck. Local groups may now volunteer to be part of the trialling.
Responsibility for grit bin and salt heap replenishment will also be handed to willing parish councils. Willing parish councils would be asked to check and control usage and request more supplies when necessary, freeing up more time for the county council to concentrate on priority routes.
The county council will also recruit up to 300 volunteer ‘snow champions’, who will be given suitable equipment to allow them to treat snow on agreed lengths of footways in local communities. The volunteers would be vetted to ensure suitability and also given induction training in the lead up to winter. This is the first scheme of its kind to be trialled by the county council.
County Councillors today also agreed which routes in Cumbria should be treated as priorities for gritting. The scheme has been formed following a comprehensive review of the winter highway service and feedback from each of the six local committees, where councillors have contributed to the plans at a local level.
Cumbria’s winter maintenance will be delivered using the county council’s new £7m fleet of vehicles as part of its new in-house service. The new state-of-the-art fleet of 33 gritters have on-board computers and GPS mapping technology giving information on temperatures and also controlling the spread of rock salt.
The total amount of money being set aside for winter maintenance this year is £4.1m.
Cllr Tony Markley, Cumbria County Council's Cabinet member for highways, said: "Last year we were lucky to have a relatively mild winter, which would be nice to see again, but nothing’s guaranteed of course so it’s important that we’re as prepared as we can be.
"There’s a great deal of community spirit in Cumbria and passing on gritting responsibility at a local level is a sure fire way to ensure that as many roads and pavements as possible are made safe. There are around 30,000 tonnes of rock salt stored in highways depots all over Cumbria, which is a huge amount - the national average is between 4000 and 5000 tonnes. Our highways teams will be working around the clock to make Cumbria accessible in our coldest months.”