ROSS-shire councillors have called for roads surrounding schools to be made a priority when gritting over the winter.
They said many routes, including winding single track roads leading to Plockton High School, are not gritted in time for pupils arriving, leading to unnecessary school closures because buses cannot reach them.
Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh councillor Kate Stephen raised the issue at the Ross and Cromarty area committee on Tuesday.
She said: “A lot of the roads are gritted but the single track roads around the school are treated as a secondary route.
“Sometimes the roads are not treated on time and the head teacher has to close the school.
“I know the budget is ridiculously low however I do think roads leading to schools should be prioritised.
“If schools are closed that is a huge waste of council resources.”
In recent years, adverse weather has resulted in thousands of pupils being forced to stay home from school because of concerns over transport and safety.
Roads operations manager Iain Moncrieff said priorities are set by the Highland-wide winter maintenance policy and the routes can only be changed through a policy review.
Councillors unanimously agreed to ask for one to be held.
Last month, the local authority declared itself ready for this winter with a 60,000-tonne salt stockpile and a fleet of 105 gritters, 42 footpath tractors and 200 members of staff tasked for the season ahead.
n THE priorities with which Highland Council will grit roads in Ross and Cromarty this winter were meanwhile approved.
Twenty-four gritters and 10 footpath tractors are on standby to treat a road network of 524km primary routes, 536km of secondary routes and 591km of other routes in the area.
Primary routes are treated first, followed by secondary routes and crews will only move on to treat other roads when the primary and secondary routes are all completed. Forty-eight members of staff will be involved in delivering the service.
The policy aims to ensure a consistent level of service across all areas of the Highlands.
Ross-shire members were advised that, as in previous years, over the winter a duty officer rota will be in place to ensure that there is always a qualified and experienced member of staff available around the clock, seven days a week, to take decisions on the deployment of appropriate resources to deal with prevailing weather conditions.
The average annual usage of salt across Ross and Cromarty over the winter months is approximately 15,000 tonnes.
Chairwoman of the committee, Councillor Fiona Robertson, said: “The message is that we are ready for winter and along with our trunk road partners we will do the best that we can to keep people on the roads.
“Across Ross and Cromarty we have access to real time data from 17 sites and these sensors provide information on the road surface temperature, surface condition and the presence of salt.
“This information allows our staff to react to local conditions and throughout the coming winter we will monitor the agreed plan to make sure we cover any changes in weather using our existing resources to best effect.”
She added: ”Staff who will be delivering the service this winter are well trained and each year work hard to ensure we can travel around on the road network safely. However, we all have a duty to take responsibility for our own personal safety which is why I encourage drivers to be aware of our gritting policy as it is simply not possible to treat every road at the same time. We all need to be well prepared before driving in winter weather and drive according to conditions.”
Details of the Ross and Cromarty priority routes and winter services information can be found by visiting the council’s website at: http:/www.highland.gov.uk/gritting
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