TRANSPORT chiefs say they are ready for this winter’s big freeze with some forecasters predicting snow as early as this month.
Councils across the region say keeping motorists moving remains a high priority and they have stocked up on salt in order to keep the roads clear.
Despite unusually high temperatures earlier this month – with the thermometer hitting 77F in Hartlepool – council chiefs are prepared for the big freeze.
Temperatures are predicted to fall dramatically this week and snow is forecast in many areas.
Hartlepool Borough Council has a team of four gritters working around the clock when the snow hits with the aim being to keep priority roads open.
Last December, gritters spread 750 tonnes of salt in just over a week, but heavy snowfall caused chaos across town.
The council’s winter maintenance budget is around the £200,000 mark. But last year the local authority spent £260,000 due to the severe conditions.
Mike Blair, highways, traffic and transport manager at the council, said the salt barn in Brenda Road is currently at its capacity of 1,500 tonnes.
The council gets its salt from the Boulby Pot Ash, in Redcar and the salt barn is continually re-stocked throughout the winter.
Mr Blair said: “We are as prepared as we can be. We have a full salt barn and the gritting fleet is ready to go.
“If the Government’s salt cell is enacted, which prioritises salt stocks, then we prioritise primary routes.”
The first priority roads include the A689, York Road, Stockton Road and Catcote Road, with second priority being more minor roads around town.
Mr Blair added: “It is vital that we keep the town moving safely.”
Teams spread salt around three hours before roads are expected to freeze.
Meanwhile, Durham County Council’s winter maintenance budget is £2.43m.
Terry Collins, corporate director of neighbourhood services for Durham County Council, said: “Keeping the county moving, even during severe winter weather, remains a high priority for the council. But more importantly it was the number one priority expressed by residents during a major consultation exercise last autumn.
“As a result, and despite the large spending reductions the council faces, this winter we have protected the winter maintenance budget.
“We will go in to this winter with a salt stock of 45,000 tonnes, 5,000 tonnes more than last year, but we are far from complacent.
“While we will endeavour to do everything within our power to keep our full priority network open, should the severe freezing weather be repeated this year, we are as always dependent on our suppliers for replenishing our salt stocks.”
Meanwhile, Stockton Borough Council has 2,750 tonnes of salt in stock, the same as this time last year.