Government funds new gritters and calls on councils to keep roads open

The Government is calling on local authorities to stock-up on salt and grit to keep key routes open, while bolstering Highways England’s fleet of gritters.   

Roads minister Baroness Vere wants councils across the country to ensure key transport routes to Covid-19 test centres are kept open this winter.

In a letter to councils, she urged them to ensure they have adequate supplies of salt and grit as the country prepares for the potential challenge of severe weather alongside Covid-19.

Salt producers – through the Salt Association – have confirmed that production is at sufficient levels to protect road users over the coming months.

The Government has also invested more £16 million to help Highways England deploy 93 new gritters this winter on the country’s motorways and major A-roads.

The new gritters join a 535-strong winter fleet, including 23 snow blowers capable of removing up to 2,500 tonnes of snow per hour.

A further £40m will be invested by Highways England to help more than 250 replacement winter vehicles join the fleet. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We have worked tirelessly with the country’s highways teams to make sure our transport networks are kept open and running in whatever weather we encounter.  

“This year, it is more important than ever that Britain is prepared for the winter as we continue to tackle the pandemic. Through this work, we’ll ensure key routes to Covid-19 test centres remain open in the coming months.”  

Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, added: “Our winter fleet will be out treating our roads around the clock whenever ice or snow is forecast, but it is still important that drivers plan their journeys, make sure they are prepared for the winter weather and drive safely in all conditions.”

The UK’s rail network is also prepared for the more challenging weather conditions, with contingency plans put together so essential workers can rely on the railways.

Network Rail and train operators are implementing a range of measures, from deploying specialist cold-weather vehicles such as de-icers at strategic locations, to using inflatable flood defence measures, as well as special timetables ready to implement if needed.  

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