The winter maintenance plan for 2020/21 winter is today agreed at committee

Aberdeen’s roads and pavements winter gritting plan including arrangements in place for a potential coronavirus outbreak and a total spend of £1.7million was today agreed by councillors at operational delivery committee.

A report to committee about the Roads Winter Service Plan said there will minor changes to the 2019/20 routes however the exact extent and nature of the treatment required is difficult to gauge at this stage and is dependent on how the Covid-19 pandemic develops.

Aberdeen City Council transport spokesperson Councillor Sandra Macdonald said: “It is good to see that once again our services are ready for the oncoming winter. Our staff go above and beyond to ensure the city’s key roads and pavements are kept gritted according how they are prioritised.to which priority they are.

“As always, we hope the oncoming winter will be a moderate one however it is reassuring to know that we are prepared if there are adverse weather conditions and have plans in place in case a further coronavirus outbreak disrupts the efforts of staff or salt supplies.”

The report said it is not feasible to salt every road, pavement and cycleway around the city at the same time so they are being prioritised, with main routes given top priority. Roads are split into priority one, two and three routes, and pavements/cycleways are split into priority one and two routes.

Priority one roads were split into gold and silver routes for the first time last year.

The gold routes include the strategic roads and all the main distributer roads, access roads for emergency service vehicles, and they also include the de-trunked sections of the A96 and A92. The gold routes should not become impassable to traffic 24 hours a day, except in abnormal conditions.

The silver routes include main secondary distributer roads, and link roads and local access roads with special circumstances such as steep slopes, and they should not become impassable to traffic between the hours of 4.45am and 9pm, except in abnormal conditions.

Link roads and local access roads that do not have any special circumstances such as steep slopes etc are priority 2 or 3 routes.

The report to committee said salt stock levels have been taken back up to about 10,127 tonnes and this stock will be topped up with regular programmed deliveries throughout winter.

There is a potential risk that the coronavirus pandemic could result in supply issues for salt and other winter supplies, the report said. Current salt stocks are greater than the total salt used in any one of the last two winters which means that in the event of a similar winter, there should be adequate supply. However, should it be a harsh winter, the current salt stocks may not be adequate so salt levels will be kept topped up. If salt supplies are limited, treatment of non-strategic routes may have to be restricted to keep traffic flows along main roads and access to buildings such as the main hospitals operating.

There are currently more than 900 salt bins throughout the city based on historic requests and the committee agreed to continue the policy of not issuing any additional salt bins but to further promote the issue of 1 tonne bags of salt for community use.

The community salt bags scheme was introduced in the winter of 2012/13 to issue 1 tonne bags of salt to community groups willing to carry out self-help winter treatment and a total of 180 bags were delivered to residents and community groups last year, down from 227 the year before. Additional small bags will be provided to help distribute the salt in the community. There will be a cut-off date for applications of 1 November after which applications will not be processed until the following year.

In addition, there are 20 large capacity grit bins, introduced in late 2018, from which the public can collect salt in locations such as supermarket or community centre car parks.

The report to committee said there is a significant risk that the restrictions being applied to manage the current pandemic may impact the winter service in 2020/21 including if further restrictions are imposed on staff movements and the operation of the external parties that assist in the delivery of the service.

As an absolute minimum the service would wish to be able to cover all strategic gold routes with the aim to also cover silver routes and provide full priority one route coverage. It is possible that lockdown restrictions may limit the number of staff available to complete winter operations.

Route changes to accommodate the temporary network alterations required for pandemic control measures (e.g. temporary pedestrianisation of roads or one-way systems) are being reviewed and short-term changes to the treatment routes being identified.

Where a priority one road cannot be treated, or a road used to transit between priority one roads is not passable, routes will be altered to stick as closely as possible to the standard routes.

Where a temporary restriction will lead to traffic being moved from a priority one road to a lower priority road, treatment of the lower priority road will be considered if the restrictions will mean that the lower priority road acts as if it were higher class of road – e.g. where bus routes are moved to alternate roads, these will be treated as per how the original road would have been treated. It is not currently known what the full extent of these temporary measures will be, however they are being monitored by officers so that suitably modified routes will be in place in time for winter operations.

The report said gritting operations can be completed whilst adhering to social distancing measures as gritters can be loaded and operated without the need for any staff-to-staff contact.

Where there may be a need for multiple operatives to drive the same vehicle within a 72-hour period, the vehicle will be wiped down with disinfectant spray to mitigate the chances of any contamination. Starting times for staff may be staggered in order to minimise the number of people in the yard at any given time. Should Covid-19 affect a significant number of the frontline staff, resilience measures may have to be applied, the report said.

Frontline staff involved in the delivery of the winter service are to be offered the seasonal flu vaccine along with support staff. These measures should reduce the number of staff developing seasonal flu and consequently being unavailable for works while unnecessarily implementing coronavirus protective measures.