The Welsh Government is considering issuing new guidance on gritting to cover both trunk and local roads, following a spate of accidents in recent icy conditions.
Winter maintenance of Welsh trunk roads is carried out on behalf of the Government by certain local authorities, using the Welsh Government Trunk Road Maintenance Manual. The same authorities follow the UK Government’s Well-maintained Highways code of practice for gritting their own roads.
Darren Millar, AM for Clwyd West, recently questioned transport minister, Edwina Hart, over what action she would take to drive consistency across the road network, after noting that there were '69 crashes on roads across North Wales as a result of the icy conditions’.
Mrs Hart replied that the Government did not provide guidance directly to local authorities but was considering creating a single unified guide to all highway gritting.
‘There are two manuals that they look at. I am discussing with senior officials whether I should issue guidance that should be adopted by local authorities – that is, one single guidance with regard to the gritting of roads,’ she said.
After the scores of accidents in early January, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Anglesey councils said roads had not been gritted initially because the authorities’ weather forecasts had not properly warned of icy conditions.
Paul Wheeldon, chair of CSS Wales, told Transport Network: ‘Some local authorities have a large trunk road network in their area and probably use the trunk road manual. This spate of accidents is all to do with weather forecasting and how you interpret the results.’
Mr Wheeldon added that he thought the current guidance was sufficient.
Another local government officer said: ‘Had the forecasts been right, the roads would have been gritted, whichever manual was looked at.’
He thought that councils would generally welcome the clarity of a single manual on gritting, if the Government produced such a document.
Last year Welsh local authorities collectively agreed to disregard the Well-maintained Highways Appendix H, as revised in 2013, on the grounds that it is too complicated.