Investment in winter gritters to cover Yorkshire's biggest county amid warnings over instances of severe weather

A major investment in winter readiness has been confirmed for some of the region’s most rural communities as a fleet of new gritters is revealed at a cost of £2.2m.

NY Highways driver Brian Sample in one of the gritters joining the fleet

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), which is responsible for England’s largest highways network, brought its gritting teams in house this year with the creation of a new company.

As the investment is revealed today to ensure its vast rural network can be kept moving through the worst of the winter weather, the authority has stressed the need for a modern and reliable fleet.

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“Now, perhaps more than ever, it is vital that we are well prepared and ready to act as we see increasing instances of severe weather around the world, and within our own county,” said County Coun Don Mackenzie, the authority’s executive member for access.

With the new vehicles are Coun Don Mackenzie and Karl Battersby, Corporate Director of Business and Environmental Services, and (back) Vick Croker of Mercedes truck dealership S&B Commercial and Kevin Yale of Econ.

“These additions to our fleet of gritters, with four-wheel drive for our most challenging locations, will ensure that we are ready."

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The investment, he said, confirms the authority’s commitment to maintaining its winter maintenance under its new in-house service.

“This enables us to treat routinely a greater proportion of our roads network during wintry conditions than any other council in England,” he said.

The new gritters joining the NY Highways fleet

NYCC covers England’s largest county network and some of its most rural and hard to reach areas, gritting more than half of its 5,753 miles of roads at a cost averaging £7m every winter.

Its new company, NY Highways fleet, was created by the authority after its private sector contracts came to an end, with this winter to see additional scrutiny as its first in operation.

Ross Bullerwell, managing director, said preparations are going well, with the summer restock of salt underway and with all gritters now undergoing a full summer service.

The investment, he added, will significantly enhance the county’s provision, with 18 new gritters to replace some in its 80-strong fleet.

The vehicles, built on a Mercedes-Benz chassis, are four-wheel drive to help them to cope with the county’s rural topography and fitted with the latest GPS tracking systems.

“This helps us to ensure that we deliver a successful winter maintenance programme to keep the roads safe and clear for travellers,” said Mr Bullerwell.

Investment

The authority has come under the spotlight in recent days with more than 40 requests for extra gritting across the county yesterday set to be rejected.

Bids had been submitted by residents and businesses to cover more than a dozen extra roads in Richmondshire and Harrogate, along with several more in Craven and Hambleton.

Routes are rarely added, Coun Mackenzie had said, with the authority already treating a bigger proportion of its highways network in a routine winter than any other local authority.

Of the new investment, he added: “We fully understand how important it is for residents and businesses to keep North Yorkshire moving throughout winter. To do that, we need to ensure our fleet stays right up-to-date.

“That’s why we’re investing now, and why we have a policy that none of our gritters should be more than eight years old and the average age of the whole fleet should be less than five.”

NYCC spends between £6m and £10m each year on seasonal gritting, depending on the severity of the weather, with more than 10,000 runs completed last winter.

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