Laura Mowat’s on the roads with a look at preparations for the coming winter weather
If we get forecasts wrong it could be catastrophic As winter approaches, the Transport for Bucks team is preparing for the inclement weather conditions. LAURA MOWAT went to the Aylesbury depot to find out more about the winter operations
THIS year the biggest concern for transport bosses is not the snow, but the flooding over the winter months.
Transport for Bucks area manager, Calvin Richardson, said: “Flooding causes us a huge problem. The water table has got to saturation point.” Areas in the south of the county, including Amersham and Marlow, are particularly susceptible to flooding. There is around £300,000 of equipment to combat flooding in the depot, including pumps and sandbags.
Mr Richardson said: “Flooding is a new thing and we are less geared up for it. Somehow we have got to find the money to buy the machines, to maintain them, to do the drills so our men know what they are doing, it is an added pressure to our day job.”
The county council gets the salt from Cheshire and keeps it in four timber salt domes for storage.
The council has a reserve of 10,500 tonnes of salt for this year’s winter, one tonne costs the council £36. Last year, the council used 5,600 tonnes on 43 runs.
The fleet of 25 gritter lorries all cover different routes across the county.
They cover around 45 per cent of the county’s roads, in particular the main roads and around schools.
School children give them their names, which include Daisy and Mighty Thaw.
Transport for Bucks keeps a watchful eye on the nine weather stations across the county to find out four different weather forecasts in the day.
Depending on the weather forecast, the managers will make a decision as to whether the gritters should go out on a route.
Mr Richardson said: “The most important part of what we do is the weather forecasts, if we get that wrong, it could be catastrophic. The decision is paramount.”
If the gritters go out too early in bad weather conditions, the salt could be simply blown off and too late, it will have less effect. The decision is made depending on the temperature of the ground.
Snow ploughs are only used when snow falls in excess of 50mm. Any less than that, snow is removed from the road with the frequent application of salt and action of traffic.
The Transport for Bucks website shows the routes and which roads are being gritted at any time.
The gritters have GPS trackers installed so as soon as they start their routes, their progress may be tracked online.
Gritters are sent out at 4am and 7pm to ensure the roads are treated before the road temperature drops below zero and before peak travel time in the morning.
Two decisions are made over gritting in Buckinghamshire – one for the north of the county and one for the south, as weather conditions and road temperatures may vary.
PC Peter Hare, of the Thames Valley Police Roads Policing Department, said that over the winter months, people must take particular care to ensure that they drive according to the conditions on the road.
He said: “There is no rhyme or rhythm to the accidents, drivers need to drive to the conditions. People still need to check their oil and screenwash, people forget because their cars are modern.
“Drivers need to be extra careful with the distance between themselves and the car in front.”
Last year, there were 11 fatalities due to car accidents in Bucks, two of these were motorcyclists, three resulted in a prosecution and one was down to a medical episode.
To find out more, see www. transportforbucks. net and to follow Transport for Bucks on Twitter, go to @ tfbalerts.
Mapped out: Above, The Transport for Bucks team keep ay eye on the gritters with the screens in their office. Right, Bucks County councillor Paul
Irwin at the Transport for Bucks depot day
Under control: Above, Transport for Bucks area manager, Calvin Richardson. Below left, visitors at a recent depot day