Devon gritters prepare for more snow as bill tops �1million

THE constant gritting regime this winter has cost Devon County Council more than �1 million so far - and that bill is set to rise as another Arctic blast is forecast over the next couple of days. More than 18,000 tonnes of salt has been used on Devon s ro

THE constant gritting regime this winter has cost Devon County Council more than �1 million so far - and that bill is set to rise as another Arctic blast is forecast over the next couple of days.

More than 18,000 tonnes of salt has been used on Devon's road network since the 30 November, the equivalent of one and a half winters and nearing the amount of 20,000 tonnes that was used for the whole of last year's exceptionally cold winter.

Gritters will be out again this evening (Monday) ensuring that routes are salted and all of the primary network - nearly 1,700 miles of roads including A and B roads - will be treated at 4.30am tomorrow morning as road temperatures are again set to plummet to -4C.

The county's main salting routes remain clear and passable with care, with the exception of some moorland routes. Treatment off the major network has ceased, except to support access to hospitals and secondary schools.

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Devon's 1,550 grit bins are also constantly being re-filled as resources allow and residents are reminded that only small amounts of grit are required to be effective. Grit provided in the bins is only for use on the public highway and should be used sparingly.

There has been a slight rise in temperatures which has seen a partial melt over the weekend in some areas, but freezing conditions overnight mean that black ice could become a problem, especially on minor roads which remain treacherous.

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Heavy snow is forecast for Tuesday afternoon and into Wednesday, with four inches expected to fall across widespread areas of Devon and the possibility of up to 12 inches of snow on higher ground.

Devon County Council is responsible for 8,000 miles of roads - the biggest network of any local authority in the country. It has around 4,000 tonnes of salt remaining in its stock, which is enough to treat the county's primary roads for a further seven days at the current rate of treatment, depending on how bad the snow is this week.

Devon is expected to receive 1,000 tonnes of salt in the next few days and another 15,000 tonnes has been ordered from Northern Ireland, but a delivery date is awaited.

Snow ploughs and snow blowers have been clearing routes to Dartmoor and Exmoor. Snow has been drifting on the A39, A399, A382 Whiddon Down and A386 Tavistock to Okehampton. The B3357 is closed to vehicles other than 4x4. Ploughs have also kept routes on higher ground open at Rackenford, Smeatharpe and around Totnes and Avonwick.

Around half of all school transport has been operating, mostly in the south and east of the county, where the bus operators have felt it safe to do so. Key access routes and entrances to major secondary and community college sites are again being gritted where possible, and salt is being provided to schools. Parents are advised to contact their local school directly for up to date advice on any potential school closure or listen to their local radio station.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said: "The slight thaw we've had in some areas can be deceptive and when the run-off freezes it could leave patches of black ice. People must take extra care when heading out, even on roads that have been salted. Major roads are our priority and will continue to be so, but our highways teams are doing everything possible and are attempting to improve access to schools and are continuing to re-fill grit bins."

Chris Cranston, Devon County Council's Highway Operations Manager, added:

"While the general situation has improved temporarily, we must remain vigilant. Heavy snow is forecast through Tuesday and Wednesday which could prove significant. The winds are also expected to pick up which will lead to drifting especially in exposed areas over the moor.

"While Devon County Council will have all available resources mobilised to deal with the impending situation, there will be places that will not receive any salt or grit treatment for some time. The gritters will be working throughout the day and night to keep the main routes open but many of the minor roads are likely to remain impassable."

Motorists are reminded of the following advice:

*Avoid travel unless absolutely essential, especially at night as roads will always be more hazardous at night with less traffic and colder temperatures;

*Never assume a road has been salted - remember that showers or rain can wash salt off roads leaving them prone to ice. In very cold weather even salting will not stop ice from forming;

*If you have to travel, take an emergency kit in your car (shovel, blanket, hot drink, torch, de-icer, boots, battery jump leads);

*Allow extra time for your journey and reduce your speed;

*Listen to local radio for updates on current conditions;

*Drive with care and according to the conditions and pay attention to changing conditions. Be ready to slow down and take more care particularly on bends and exposed roads.

For more information about Devon's road network contact 0845 1551004 or visit the website:

Alternatively for trunk road and motorway information call the 24 hour Highways Agency Information Line for live traffic reports (08457-504030) or listen to the latest reports online at

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