Gritting is snow laughing matter!

SIR – Following comments in recent weeks about how we have reacted to the exceptional weather, I feel compelled to write on behalf of the men and women at Hertfordshire Highways who have worked tirelessly since the first snow on December 15.

Since then [to the time of writing], our salting crews have carried out 31 runs and covered over 40,000 miles of road – the equivalent of driving round the world one-and-a-half times.

This doesn’t include their work (and that of colleagues from the district councils) hand clearing pavements and revisiting roads that they couldn’t salt because of parked or abandoned cars.

There was no Christmas or New Year for them – they worked every day over the holidays and continue to work long, anti-social hours (frequently throughout the night, which is why many people don’t see them at work) in difficult conditions.

A common complaint is that we only salt main roads.

In fact, we salt about 1,400 miles of high priority roads.

If we tried to clear all of Hertfordshire’s roads it would be a massive and costly operation involving another 1,900 miles of roads.

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Costs aside, the fact is that side roads are often too small for gritters to access.

Also, for salt to work it needs to be ground into the ice and snow by the weight of frequently passing vehicles. Most side roads don’t have enough traffic to make salt effective.

The national salt shortage means that our priority is keeping the main roads open – that’s where traffic travels fastest and there is greatest risk of serious accidents.

The county would grind to a halt if we didn’t keep these roads accessible.

Likewise, we have to make sure that, of our 3,000 miles of pavements, it’s those in the areas where most people walk – such as town centres – that are cleared.

It looks like this severely cold weather is set to stay for some time and as a result people need to take great care on roads and pavements.

I appreciate taxpayers’ frustration, but these are exceptional conditions.

Unfortunately it appears from some recent letters that we now live in a blame culture, rather than with the Blitz spirit.

I’d like to thank everyone at Hertfordshire Highways for their continued hard work in very difficult circumstances.

Stuart Pile,

Hertfordshire County Council’s executive member for highways and transport.