How super-gritters aim to beat snow and icy roads

Operations at the control centre. Picture: Neil Hanna
Operations at the control centre. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Super-gritters capable of spreading twice as much salt on icy roads will target traffic gridlock this winter.

The hi-tech vehicles will be fitted with mobile sensors that record road temperatures and conditions, beaming the information back to a newly-opened control centre in South Queensferry.

The information will be used to provide commuters with real-time information on which roads have been gritted via the Traffic Scotland website.

Bosses hope the system will help tackle snow chaos and prevent a repeat of December 2010 when the M8 was closed.

Fourteen of the new-age gritters will operate on roads across Edinburgh and the Lothians, following a successful trial last winter.

Extra overnight patrols will also be put on to examine routes and find potential problem spots. More specialist 
de-icers have been bought to deal with particularly low temperatures. Almost 200 vehicles will be used to spread salt and plough trunk roads across the country. A total of 694,000 tonnes of salt have been stockpiled in preparation for sub-zero conditions.

It will be the first winter that responses to severe weather have been co-ordinated from the new multi-million-pound traffic control centre opened in South Queensferry in April.

Operators at the hub situated near the Forth Road Bridge will be able to watch more than 380 cameras across the country and change more than 200 variable message signs at the click of a button.

Visitors to the Traffic Scotland website can view images from 250 of those cameras.

Traffic Scotland operations manager Stein Connelly said more than 310,000 people had downloaded a smart phone app providing information on traffic alerts, congestion and ­conditions.

He said: “People want to plan their route, they want to know what’s happening to the network. They’re coming looking for the information, as well as us giving it out via our radio broadcast direct from the control room on to the private radio network. These tools using social media are allowing us to get our information out to our customers a lot more freely.”

Each of the super-gritters weighs 32 tonnes and is capable of treating longer stretches of road before returning to the depot. The giant vehicles are expected to be used on the A720, M8 and M9.

A Met Office forecaster will also be based at the control centre.

Forecasters give shovels warning

FORECASTERS have warned Scots to have their shovels at the ready this winter.

UK Weather Forecast has predicted a pattern of high pressure from December.

Temperatures are expected to be colder than average for the final month of the year.

Conditions across January and February are expected to continue the trend from the past few winters, with cooler than average temperatures and more frequent snowfall than in the past two decades.

The Lothians shivered through a late finish to winter earlier this year, with snowfall recorded around Edinburgh as late as April. The most widespread snow so far in 2013 hit from mid-to-late January.