Session 2010-11
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Written evidence from Lincolnshire County Council (AWC 01)

Lincolnshire Highways Winter Maintenance Operations

Review of operations during severe snow event between Tuesday 30th November and Monday 6th December 2010

General

It was a County of two halves. Area to the South of Sleaford had minor snow with no appreciable accumulations. North of that area experienced a major snow event.

Weather

1) Overall Weather forecasts from the Met Office were accurate and timely. Forecast provided under contract through the Open Road Service.

2) Forecasts through the period varied between:

a) 30th /1st Tuesday/Wednesday - Widespread spread snow 2-5cm, 15 - 20cm locally. Minimum road temps -20C

b) 5th/6th Sunday/Monday – No snow. Minimum road temps -100C

3) Particular problems on hills in the Lincolnshire Wolds and in and around Lincoln due to its topography

4) South and West areas of the county were fully open with no major issues.

5) North and East areas had access to all villages by at least 4x4 vehicles. All main roads were passable with care with the exception of some sections of hill. However roads off the treated network were subject to significant ice accumulations with ongoing extreme low temperatures -10 to -15. This was especially true of back roads, estates and footways.

Lincolnshire’s Winter Service

6) State of readiness on the 1st November

a) 30,000 tonnes of salt in stock. (Policy is to have 23,000 tonnes in stock for an average winter).

b) This equated to 75 runs at 20gms dry (400 tonnes) which is maximum treatment for snow.

c) 48 gritters all with snow ploughs and 1 snow blower

d) 56 Farmers and Contractors on call across the county to aid with snow clearing.

e) Mutual aid arrangement in place with District Councils. Salt supplied by LCC.

f) Utilised Fire & Rescue services for hand salting of hills and footways. They managed to get through the grid lock to get salt supplies by use of blue lights. Initially some of our gritters were stuck in the grid lock. This was relieved the next day once the joint operations room was established.

g) Local Resilience Forum set up Silver and Gold (Tactical and Strategic groups) which aided implementation of mutual aid.

h) Police and Fire & Rescue staff collocated with Highway staff in Snow Room set up in the highways 24hr emergency control room. This had access to all the winter maintenance systems and also CCTV.

7) Network

a) Lincolnshire precautionary salts 3008 km out of 8960km. 34%

b) A defined network of footways that are treated – when resources are available.

c) Cycle tracks are not treated

8) Mutual Aid Arrangements

a) Mutual aid arrangements have been set in place with District Councils for snow clearance of footways.

b) Parish Councils have been written to by the Director on self help issues with a copy of the Snow Code developed by the Department for Transport – see attached.

c) Also an extra 200 grit bins had been provided on top of the 1,500 already out on the network.

9) Finance

a) Despite significant reduction in overall highways budgets the winter service has been protected therefore no change in finances. Service financed for 85 turnouts and 2 snow days which this winter is £4.36m.

b) Pressure on winter funds from two consecutive bad winters require that the adequacy of Adverse Weather fund will need to be reviewed.

10) Lessons learnt during that ten days were that:

a) Improved communications and protocols need to be developed with emergency services. Example of poor communications resulted with the police stopping all traffic on the hills, because of risk of accidents, but highways needed the traffic to continue to assist the action in cutting through the snow to enable the salt already spread to work.

11) Snow clearing ability

a) Snow clearing ability has been much reduced over the last twenty years mainly because of reduced workforce numbers due to more efficient general service delivery. Workforce available to LCC to man gritters and clear snow has reduced from 800 in the early 80’s to around 250 now. The number of farmers available with snow clearing equipment has also reduced over this period. Both reductions are due to the move to more contractual labour forces than having own directly employed labour and as a consequence this cuts down on capacity and resilience. This will be exacerbated by significant reductions in highway budgets.

Communications and public expectations

12) Overview

a) Fully engaged with all media outlets through county communications team and highways staff. BBC Radio Lincolnshire is a full member of the both Silver and Gold teams. Utilised radio stations to get messages out. Regular hourly spots by highways staff.

13) Main public issues

a) A very split reaction from the public as would be expected. Some wanting every footway and estate road treated now! Unachievable rapid response to significant weather events. LCC has 9000km of road, 43 gritting routes. This event was equivalent to having to move 4m tonnes of snow off the road network.

14) Changes to message

a) Initial response would be to engender a more realistic expectation is the wider community and to keep people informed.

Quarmby Review

15) Implementation

a) Lincolnshire was fully engaged with the Quarmby review, both as an authority and through its chairmanship of the National Winter Service Research Group.

b) July 2010 Report

i) Engaged through the local Resilience Forum with District Councils and Health Authority on mutual aid arrangements.

ii) Increased number of grit bins on the network for self help.

iii) Reviewed policy on use of grit/sharp sand in winter maintenance operations

iv) Improved treatment of footways near transport interchanges

c) October 2010 Report and subsequent revision of the Well Maintained Highways Code.

i) Engaged with Parish Councils and the local press on guidance concerning self help and snow clearance.

ii) Implementation of revised precautionary salting spread rates.

iii) Implementation of revised snow clearing practices. This includes a review of existing snow plough equipment to see if it is fit for purpose.

d) Engaged with Transport Scotland on their proposal to adopt treated brine pre-wet spreading as used in Lincolnshire.

Looking Forward

16) Salt stocks

a) Lincolnshire had already ordered an additional 10,000 tonnes for delivery towards the end of December/early January. This is due for delivery on the 26th January. This would mean that LCC has had a total capacity of 40,000 tonnes for the whole of the winter of 2010/2011.

b) An option on a further 10,000 tonnes for delivery in February has lalso been taken. This will go towards restocking for the winter of 2011/2012.

c) Adverse weather reserve now depleted through need to restock with the additional 10,000 tonnes of salt. Highways will be requesting additional funds from council reserves to pay for extra works necessitated by this event – not guaranteed at this time.

17) Messages to Government

a) Clear message from government on what the public can realistically expect in extreme weather events.

b) Does the government and society wish to fund all highway authorities at a significant cost to deal with one week’s disruption a year? This usually happens every 5 years. Our snow blower has been used for the first time in 5 years!

c) Self help – clear expectations that communities will need to help themselves.

d) Reduction in highways budgets will impact on ability to respond both to the severe weather event and its aftermath.

e) Look at derogation of certain rules and regulations so that winter gritting can take place more effectively such as:

f) Make precautionary salting an emergency activity which would then relax drivers hours regulations

g) Derogation to use 28 tonne vehicles for winter activities. Would increase the number of vehicles that would be available from the haulage and construction industry during severe weather that could utilise slot in spreaders.


Appendix

Dear Sir/Madam

GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE FOR SELF HELP ON WINTER SNOW CLEARANCE

Recently, you may have seen in the press, HM Government reference to guidance on self help during periods of severe winter weather.

This guidance has been published following an independent review into the response of England’s transport system to severe winter weather. This review was carried out earlier this year, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, and followed two consecutive severe winters across the whole country. The Quarmby Review, as it is called, can be accessed via the internet:

http://transportwinterresilience.independent.gov.uk/index.

Section 11 of Quarmby’s Interim Report comprehensively covers the findings, which were developed into Recommendation 15 in the report, stating:

The Department for Transport should develop, in collaboration with local government representatives and appropriate experts, a code setting out good practice for members of the public, including business owners, in clearing snow and ice from footways. This should:

· be produced by the end of October 2010 in time for the coming winter;

· be short, along the lines of Westminster’s advice to its residents;

· set a standard which, if observed, should guard the public against negligence claims;

· be made available to households by local authorities.

It is due to this report and its recommendations that the Department for Transport has developed this national guidance. As David Quarmby said in the report "There were many unhelpful media pieces relating to potential liability of individuals clearing show and ice from the footways outside their homes". Further information can be found at the Direct Gov Website:

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/NI1/Newsroom/DG_191868

It is from this work that the attached guidance note has been produced. This should allay any fears that you and your community may have had concerning self help and the use of grit bins that have been provided across the county.

By the Autumn of 2009, Lincolnshire County Council had already started a review of its winter maintenance operations, which was completely in early 2010. Copies of this review were presented to the Quarmby Review as evidence of good practice. Lincolnshire County Council’s review also highlighted self help guidance and an aspiration to engage more collaboratively with both District and Town/Parish Councils. Two of the actions from the review were:

· In relation to the treatment of footways in severe weather, we recommend that officers explore with District and Town/Parish Councils, the possibility of redeploying operatives from other activities, to assist the clearance of snow and ice from footways. As part of this process, consideration should be given to holding a local conference to engage with Members and other local partners.

· In relation to salt/grit bins, we recommend a leaflet or guidance note should be prepared for Town and Parish Councils, outlining the insurance arrangements.

As can be seen, there is a local and national dimension to utilising the limited resources available, both locally in Lincolnshire and in the UK. The challenge for us all in times of severe financial restraint, is to co-ordinate our actions better and engage where appropriate. To this end, the County Council is placing an additional 200 grit bins across the county, where they meet our necessary criteria, and are for use on the public highway and footways. All grit bins put out on the highway network by Lincolnshire County Council will be re-filled by Lincolnshire’s Highways Alliance.

I trust you find this guidance helpful and that it assist you with any further consideration your Council may give to possible ways of encouraging self help within the local community during times of severe weather.

Please contact your local Highways Divisional Officer should you wish to discuss this letter.

January 2011