A SNOW patrol of council volunteers is set to get behind the wheel of a fleet of mini-tractors to help keep the Capital moving this winter.
It is the first time such a scheme has been rolled out in the city, with 54 employees across a number of departments now trained up to use the vehicles during their own time to clear priority footways and cycle-path networks right across the city.
And it could be just in time, with forecasters predicting that winter could get off to a chillier start than last year.
The news came as the city council launched its Ready for Winter campaign and revealed it has 16,000 tonnes of salt on standby to treat the roads. A total of £2.89 million has been set aside for its response to extreme weather conditions, covering costs for both staff and machinery.
Councillor Adam McVey, vice convener of transport and environment, urged residents to make sure they knew how to stay safe this winter.
He said: “Even though we thankfully haven’t experienced too harsh a winter in recent years, the severe weather we tackled back in 2009/10 and 2010/11 still lingers in everyone’s memory.
“We don’t, of course, know yet what the weather has in store for us this year but we’ve been busy making sure we’re as prepared as we can be to keep the city moving, whatever the elements throw our way.
“Our staff are all trained up, our equipment is ready for use and our salt stocks are topped up, with more available should it be needed.”
Earlier this week, the Met Office issued a yellow warning of snow for the Lothian and Borders region – but it is thought the Capital should escape the worst of the elements this year.
A forecaster said: “Statistically it still looks like we’ll have a fairly standard winter with temperatures around average level but at times colder than we would expect.
“It doesn’t look like it will turn out like last year with Storm Abigail – we haven’t seen any evidence that we are going to get powerful storm systems come in from the Atlantic.”
They added the risk of cold snaps at the start of this winter had gone up from 20 to 30 per cent.
The 54 council volunteers will be joined by 96 road services staff, with eight of the mini tractors available to cover networks throughout the city. The remaining 11 tractors will be distributed across Edinburgh for local routes in severe weather.
One of those getting involved in the effort is Newbridge farmer Tom Lawrie, who has been helping the city council respond to winter weather for the last five years.
He said: “Some of the roads we do are hard to get to and narrow and are easier served by tractor than by lorry.
“The partnership with the council works well as we have the manpower and machinery available at a quieter time of year on the farm.”