Reading is Well Prepared for Severe Weather
Today for the first time this winter Reading had a fall of snow that settled overnight. Admittedly it was a very light dusting of snow that we woke to this morning but it provided an opportunity to test some of the response of the Council. The gritters were out in the evening on all of the primary routes and many of the secondary routes ensuring that roads were prepared for the worst. This morning when I had to leave for work I made it carefully through the snow covered road out onto one of the primary bus routes which was completely free of snow and ice.
However, the real test will be if Reading has a heavy and sustained snowfall like we had last December. There are many measures that have been put in place since then and I took a report to Cabinet last night detailing them to colleagues, opposition and the media.
We have doubled the Council’s stock of grit for roads and pavements. Last year we had 600 tonnes; this year we have 1,200 tonnes. During last year’s severe winter many Councils ran out of grit and could not get new supplies. By doubling our stock we help to ensure that we will have enough for most eventualities.
We have purchased two hand held snow ploughs to clear footpaths. Last year one of the main complaints of many residents was that footpaths were not touched by the Council across the Borough outside of the town centre. Heroic efforts were made by many Council staff to clear routes across the town centre, with some working very long hours. However, much of this was done by people with shovels. The two new small ploughs will allow staff to clear such routes much more quickly, releasing people to clear pavements elsewhere and then to use the small snow ploughs outside the town centre. Another bonus is that the two small snow ploughs have been sourced from a local firm.
We have reviewed gritting route priorities and will ensure that premier bus routes are cleared as a priority. Last winter the premier bus route close to me was not ploughed for several days after the big snow falls, meaning that most of Caversham Park Village was essentially cut off to all traffic. If premier bus routes are ploughed early then most people will be able to walk to a bus or get their side roads clear enough to access the bus routes.
We have reviewed the location of grit bins and will replace three that were removed (The Horse Close, Emmer Green; Hemdean Ave/Badgers Rise, Caversham; Pottery Road/Dresden Way, Tilehurst) and install two new bins at new locations (Glenrhondda, Bugs Bottom, Caversham; Upper Warren Ave/St Peter’s Ave, Caversham ). We will also relocate one bin from Tern Close to Taff Way in west Reading. The locations were decided based on a series of criteria including proximity to another grit bin or gritting route, steepness of the road and high vehicle usage. I have said that if we can identify more funding I will be looking to provide more grit bins across the borough.
We will publicise new legal advice which states that residents and businesses will not be prosecuted if they clear in front of their properties and someone slips over. This was a major concern last year and led some people to leave their frontage uncleared for fear of legal action. The only exception would be if someone was found to be deliberately causing a danger or grossly negligent (ie by pouring water on the ground which then immediately freezes to form a dangerous ice sheet).
In addition to all the above I have met with the Council’s Emergency Planning Officer with senior Transport Officers present, to run through our preparedness plans. Of course it is still possible that we could be caught out by an unexpected snow fall of an unusual scale but I think that even if that happens our response will be better than last winter.