‘Unrealistic’ to grit all Edinburgh roads, says transport leader

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TRANSPORT convener Lesley Macinnes has warned it is unrealistic to expect all roads in the Capital to be gritted when snow hits again.

She spoke out after the council unanimously agreed to order a review of the way streets and pavements are prioritised for treatment following claims that large swathes of the city were left ungritted during the recent cold snap.

Cllr Macinnes said: “We are well aware of the need to keep our roads and pavements as clear as possible of snow and ice in order to keep the city moving, and each year we have a dedicated team available day and night, as well as a winter weather volunteers on standby, treating roads based on detailed Met office forecasts.

“But the idea that we can reach every inch of the 939 miles of roads contained in Edinburgh every time the temperature drops is, unfortunately, unrealistic.”

She said however hard gritting lorries worked there was only so much they could do when Scotland’s famously unpredictable weather struck.

“No grit can withstand periods of unexpected heavy rain followed by freezing temperatures, even when we’ve gritted well in advance, and there are times when treated roads and pavements can become icy, as we’ve found this winter.

“That’s why we prioritise routes – when hit with the elements, it’s crucial that our resources are focused to make sure the key streets that serve the most number of people continue to operate, allowing essential and emergency services to be delivered.

“While teams endeavour to reach more minor roads, pavements and cycle paths, when conditions are poor we really encourage the public to help look out for their neighbours by using the grit in grit bins to cover their local area.”

Tory transport spokesman Nick Cook told last week’s full council meeting that recent snow and ice had exposed shortcomings in the city’s gritting arrangements. He said many suburban areas were left untreated.

Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang said gritting bins had been left unfilled.

And Labour backbencher Scott Arthur highlighted the case of Michael Wilczynski, 71, who had to wait three hours for an ambulance after slipping on ice as he left his home in Carrick Knowe. He was one of 21 people involved in similar accidents on the same day last December.

The SNP-Labour coalition accepted a Tory motion calling for a review of “the suitability and responsiveness of the current priority system”, including how the council “can better service suburban and other ‘non priority’ areas”.

Cllr Macinnes said: “As we always do, we will take stock of our gritting operations in anticipation of next winter.

“I have asked officials to undertake a comprehensive review, which this year will make use of new telematic and thermal mapping technology to further hone route plans.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com