Roads winter maintenance operations reviewed

City Council officers are to examine the implications of the taking on responsibility for winter maintenance for parts of the A90 and A90 after the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) opens.

Councillors on the communities, housing and infrastructure committee today agreed recommendations of a report which reviewed the roads winter maintenance operations programme for 2016/17.

They also agreed to instruct roads operations officers to continue to compare other similar urban authorities winter services both in terms of operation and cost.

From an analysis carried out, Aberdeen City Council was required to carry out more treatments than Edinburgh and Glasgow but less than Dundee.

The report said early morning operations started on 14 November and while the general perception was of a milder winter, it was still recorded that the road surface temperatures were at or below freezing on 74 nights.

The lowest temperatures recorded by the sensors around Aberdeen were -7.9 ºC road surface temperature and an air temperature of -7.7 ºC, both on 20/11/2016.

The report said response operatives and the night attendant are in attendance throughout the year to carry out operations for Priority 1 and part of the Priority 2 when required, along with Priority 1 footpaths.

Along with these early morning operations to the priority routes, salting was also carried out to the access roads and car parks at the two park and ride sites.

This basic operating system for staff was carried out throughout the winter but operations were enhanced when a forecast of snow or severe ice conditions was received.

The priority footpaths, as set out in the Winter Services Plan, were the only routes to be covered as part of the early morning operations. This change in operations was approved by the Policy and Strategy Committee in 2008, the report said.

Footpath operations were given additional support from environmental services staff when necessary, who carried out hand spreading to some footpaths.

The report said with more than 1,200km of footways, it was not feasible to have widespread coverage as anticipated by some members of the public. With a further 480 km of remote paths and areas within our council housing estates requiring treatment, the widespread expectation of “black” footpaths and car parks is not achievable in the worst winter conditions

As in previous years, requests were received to carry out additional treatment to cycle paths. It had previously been agreed that a trial would be carried out on cycle paths using a de-icing chemical that is anticipated will remain effective much longer than rock salt. However, this winter did not provide suitable test conditions and the intention is to trial it next winter if it has lengthy periods when road surface temperatures below zero and wet conditions.

A total of 4,602tonnes of rock salt was used on the Aberdeen City Council roads network, compared to 7,763tonnes in 2015/6, 9,483tonnes in 2014/5, and 5,600tonnes in 2013/14. A total of 7,800tonnes were delivered during the financial year.

The report said as the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road nears completion, it is anticipated that a considerable length of the current trunk road network within the city boundary will be de-trunked and the maintenance, including winter maintenance, of these sections is expected to be transferred to the city council.

The continuation of the current level of winter maintenance service along these sections would result in a significant additional burden on the Roads Operations budgets.

Ongoing developments to the national standards such as included in “Well Managed Highway infrastructure” have been proposed but have not as yet been universally accepted as the best basis for preparation of winter service plans.

Members will be aware that the City Council’s Revenue Budget for 2016/17 for winter maintenance was £1.727million and the final expenditure was £1.610million, so £0.117million below the budget allocation.

This saving is largely attributed to the reduced tonnage of salt used as it was a relatively mild winter. The quantity of salt used was approximately 3,161tonnes less than last financial year, saving £108,000.

The report said the expenditure for the previous three winters has been

£1.752million in 2015-2016, £1.977million in 2014-2015 and £1.565million in 2013-14. The long-term average is therefore considerably higher than this winter expenditure.