(1) Each year Highways and Transportation reviewed the Council’s Highways and Transportation Winter Service Policy and the operational plan that supported it in light of changes in national guidance and lessons learnt from the previous winter. The report set out proposed amendments following the review.
(2) The winter of 2012/13 was one of the most prolonged periods of cold weather experienced in Kent for many years, and as a result the winter service period had to be extended for two weeks and the last salting run of the season was 27 April. National guidance for winter service delivery by highway authorities was issued by the Department for Transport and detailed in the Code of Practice for highway authorities – Well Maintained Highways - section 13 Winter Service. Much of the guidance provided had long been incorporated in the Highways and Transportation (H&T) winter service policy and plan. However some of the technical recommendations (including issues such as vehicle calibration and salt storage) would be looked at and incorporated over the next few years into the planning for the Kent winter service. Guidance on decision making for salting runs had also been provided and a matrix had been developed for use this winter season by Winter Duty Officers.
(3) The allocated budget for winter service for 2013/14 was £3,299,900, £20,000 of which was allocated for the purchase of additional salt bins. The revisions to the winter service policy met the objectives of the Council’s medium term plan for 2014/15, Bold Steps for Kent. Working in partnership with other authorities contributed towards achieving a better service and value for money for Kent residents. Putting the citizen in control would be achieved by continuing to provide salt bags to parishes who requested them. Salt bins would continue to be provided across the county. Advice on how people in the Kent community could self help during winter conditions would also be included on the website, including road safety tips.
(4) Well Maintained Highways recommended that local authorities identified a minimum network that would be treated continuously for a period of six days in the event of a severe winter event. Last year H&T identified the minimum network for Kent as being the main strategic network, i.e. all A and B roads and some other locally important roads as identified in the highway network hierarchy and amended the policy accordingly. Essentially, these equated to the current primary routes minus the local roads and roads that go through estates etc. H&T would always endeavour to treat the entire primary network as identified in the policy but recognised that there might be times as experienced in previous years where it would be prudent to reduce the network as stated above to maintain salt levels and keep the main roads in Kent moving as much as possible.
(5) Additionally, H&T had identified an Operational Winter Period which was October to April and a Core Winter Period which was December to February and the stocks of salt needed during those periods to effectively treat the network in line with recommended resilience levels. H&T had 23,000 tonnes in stock so were well within the recommended resilience levels.
(6) In previous years good relationships had been established with the Highways Agency MAC Area 4 who managed the trunk roads and motorways in Kent. KCC shared two depots with the HA and there had been a reciprocal salt sharing arrangement for some time which had worked very well. Additionally there was an arrangement with Medway Council in respect of the weather forecast and treating areas on the borders of Kent and Medway.
(7) The farmers currently contracted to clear rural areas provided an extremely valuable service. All farmers had agreed routes to clear, usually in rural areas, village centres etc.
(8) Last year a successful winter service campaign ‘We’re prepared are/have you?’ was run across the county. The campaign was designed to increase awareness of the service and also to encourage people to be prepared and use self-help when possible. The winter page on the website was well used with 64,516 hits in January. Visits to the dedicated winter pages increased by 58%. A similar campaign had been designed for the coming year.
(9) Additionally a new feature would be on the website – Find my nearest salt bin – which would enable people to identify the salt bin closest to their home or place of work. All KCC salt bins had been labelled as property of KCC and with a short message about how the contents should be used.
(10) Last year a three year contract was awarded to Meteogroup for the supply of the winter weather forecast. At the time of writing the report the ice prediction service currently provided by Vaisala was out to tender.
(11) The Winter Service Policy was set out in Appendix B to the report, and was supported by an operational Plan which had been updated in line with the Policy and discussions with the contractor Enterprise plc to ensure that plans were aligned. In addition district plans had been developed in conjunction with district councils across the county and these will be used together with the Policy and Plan to deliver the winter service. Local district plans will be reported to the next round of Joint Transportation Boards.
(12) The following revisions had been made to the Winter Service Policy:
(a) Salt bins would be identified on a map on Kent.gov – Find my Nearest
(b) A new one year contract to provide an ice prediction service would be in place for the start of the winter service season
(c) A trial with some farmers salting key routes through villages in addition to ploughing
(13) RESOLVED that the proposed changes to the Highways and Transportation Winter Service Policy for 2013/14, be noted.