City council is well prepared ahead of expected ice blast

The Sighthill depot is stocked up ahead of winter
The Sighthill depot is stocked up ahead of winter
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A VAST stockpile of salt is being maintained by the city council as forecasters warn the country to be braced for a harsh winter.

Temperatures are expected to drop to just above freezing by Saturday as an arctic blast hits Scotland and long range forecasts from the British Weather Services warn of a “colder than average” winter with temperatures dropping as low as -18C. There are expected to be regular overnight frosts as we head into November.

Reports that several Scottish councils were cutting back on winter preparations led to concerns that city could again face the sort of big freeze that led to widespread problems in 2010.

Now Edinburgh City Council has confirmed it is maintaining its stock pile of 24,000 tonnes of rock salt, having increased investment in the last two years, to ensure the city would keep running throughout the winter.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city council’s transport convener, moved to reassure the public that the Capital was ready for the worst that the weather was likely to throw up in the coming months.

She said: “Last year we increased our storage facility and trebled our salt stocks. This level is being maintained. We also have a fleet of specialist snow clearing and salt-spreading vehicles ready to keep the city moving when required.”

It was reported yesterday that local authorities in other areas of Scotland were cutting back on winter road maintenance programmes in an effort to save cash. Councils are responsible for keeping roads safe for drivers, other than motorways and trunk roads, which are catered for by Transport Scotland.

More than 100 miles of priority road has been downgraded for salting by Scottish Borders Council, meaning its primary gritting service will only cover 37 per cent of roads in the area, as opposed to 43 per cent. A spokesperson said this would make the service more efficient and had the potential to save £170,000. They added that a full risk assessment had been undertaken. The affected roads will now not be gritted until 8.30am, while the remaining priority areas must be gritted by 7.30am.

East Lothian council said they would continue grit as necessary to ensure principal roads were kept open, adding that their rock salt stock was 11,000 tonnes, also the same as last year.

A West Lothian Council spokesperson added: “West Lothian Council has 30,000 tonnes of salt in stock for this winter, exactly the same as the amount that was available at the start of winter 2011-12. The council’s road gritting policy has not changed. 
All principal roads are gritted and/or snow ploughed 24 hours a day, on all days, if required.”

Midlothian Council also said their winter maintenance plan was “exactly the same”, with 6500 tonnes of rock salt in storage.

During the extremely harsh winter of 2010 salt supplies ran low across the country as councils worked around the clock to keep streets clear. West Lothian Council said they had used 12,000 tonnes – the same amount they would 
normally use all winter – over a three-week period. Edinburgh, East Lothian and Midlothian Council were also required to order more salt to keep up with increasing demand.