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17 December 2020

New Winter Roads Service Policy for Cumbria gets the green light

Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet has today given the green light for a new Winter Service Policy to keep roads open and the county moving during adverse winter weather.

The new Winter Service Policy for 2021/26 aims to ensure people can still get around safely and minimise delays to journeys during severe winter weather.

The plan will mean:

  • More roads will be treated during severe winter weather
  • Under the new Policy, a total of 3,272km (2,033 miles) of road will be salted when carrying out a full treatment of the network. This represents an extra 369km (229 miles) of road to be treated in a period of prolonged bad weather.
  • A route will be treated to every school as well as to major employers and key infrastructure (hospitals, water treatment works, nuclear facility etc) in the county

The new Winter Service Policy was drawn up following a comprehensive review of the winter highways service. Consultation was carried out with parish councils, and feedback from each of the county council’s six local committees, where councillors contributed to the plans at a local level.

The new Winter Service Policy reflects the national code of practice and seeks to ensure key routes on the county’s road network can be kept open continuously, even in the most severe adverse weather conditions, to protect essential economic activity and provide access to key services.

Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: “Our gritting teams provide a vital front-line service to keep roads open, well connected and accessible throughout winter and I know the service is highly valued by our residents.

“The council’s new Winter Service Policy has been produced following consultation and feedback from local parish councils. We have also learned from our experience of severe weather events such as the Beast from the East storm.

“The council invests £3.9m in winter maintenance each year. Ideally we’d treat every road in the county but that’s not possible because the cost would be prohibitive. We recognise that all routes are important for those who use them. However, given our limited resources, it’s essential to have a hierarchy for roads that will be treated during winter. The council will keep these key roads open and usable as a priority over other parts of the network.”

The county council is committed to ensuring communities are at the heart of everything we do. The council refills its 10,000 grit bins and salt heaps in local communities which enable self-gritting alongside the council’s extensive treatment programme. 

The county council supports local communities to keep local roads clear in remote areas during severe winter weather. One example is Nenthead, one of England’s highest villages at approx. 1,500ft above sea level, which can become cut off by snowdrifts during extreme winter weather such as the Beast from the East storm in 2018. A group of volunteers operate a community-run snowplough supported by the county council, which provides rock salt for treating local roads as well as driver training for the volunteers.

Cllr Claire Driver, Cumbria County Council Local Member for Alston and East Fellside, said: “The Nenthead snowplough is a real lifeline for our local community and we value the training and continuing support provided by the county council. Without this support for our wonderful team of volunteers life would be a great deal harder for many of us, not least our most vulnerable residents.”

The Winter Service Policy details the plans and procedures for the operation of the council’s winter service in Cumbria.

Work will now start on re-designing existing gritting routes to maximise efficiency and coverage of the network.

Cumbria County Council has the 4th largest highway network in the UK, maintaining some 7,900km of highway.

The county has a 38-strong fleet of council gritters and snow ploughs, which are geared up to take to the roads when temperatures start to fall in the coming months.

The council uses a number of local contractors to treat priority routes in more remote areas of the county which can be accessed using trailer gritters.

Members of the public can keep track of the council’s daily gritting plans for the road network this winter via the council’s website at www.cumbria.gov.uk/gritting and through our dedicated Twitter feed @CumbriaGritters


Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet has today given the green light for a new Winter Service Policy to keep roads open and the county moving during adverse winter weather.