Winter roads

With winter well under way, road maintenance is more important than ever. With large hospital sites having a surprising amount of mileage, it’s a good idea to get ahead before the cold weather gets worse

In order to ensure proper resilience from your roads, it is a good idea to perform maintenance before the wet and cold weather properly sets in. As the old saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail” – leaving your road network vulnerable to the cold will cause more problems and prove more costly in the long run.
In the health service, road maintenance is particularly important. Ambulances need to be able to travel safely and quickly. Service users may be vulnerable or have mobility issues and it is important that they have a safe and easily accessible route to your door.

Cold weather
We all know that in cold weather, water gets into cracks in the road and freezes and expands, damaging the road surfaces. This combined with heavy traffic means potholes are formed and they only get worse.

Charity IAM RoadSmart reports that 79 per cent of the 2000 motorists surveyed in February believe that potholes are a bigger issue for them than three years ago. 90 per cent of those polled had been affected by potholes in the last year, 32 per cent said they had changed route to avoid them and 16 per cent said they had reported a pothole to the authorities.

Due to funding restrictions, there tends to be a short-term approach to road maintenance, with reactive rather than proactive treatments, though authorities are doing what they can – ALARM reports that 1.7 million potholes were filled last year – one every 19 seconds.

However, it is much more expensive to repair individual potholes than to surface dress and maintain a road for ten years. Regular proactive maintenance of roads and paths is more sustainable and cost effective than letting roads and paths deteriorate, and then needing reactive repairs.

Surface treatments
Many surface treatments are available, such as surface dressing and these treatments are quick to apply, generate minimum waste, lower the carbon footprint of roads and generate savings for local authorities.

It is not only cost benefits that can come from road maintenance – safety is also an important factor. Improved road surfaces mean better texture and better skid resistance – both of which are particularly important for the winter. It means that drivers won’t be swerving to avoid potholes, potentially endangering themselves and other road and pavement users. Again, this is more dangerous in winter, when the roads and paths may be icy.

Once the pre-emptive road maintenance is taken care of, you should plan for any adverse weather conditions. This means making sure that your gritters and snow ploughs are well maintained and you have a good supply of grit. You should also make sure the drivers are trained and accustomed to their routes. Make sure you keep up to date with short and long-term weather forecasts and ensure you have duty rotas to cover 24 hours in the case of extreme weather or sudden weather changes.

Plan ahead
Of course, you should have winter maintenance plans, in coordination with any partners. These should monitor road surface conditions and the weather. Make sure systems are in place that means decision makers and implementors are able to make decisions and react appropriately.
Make sure you have enough grit supplies and a gritting plan before you need it, so you are ready to go before it gets icy or snowy. Identify priority areas. Grit should be laid before the ice forms. It is also good practice to keep a record of what has been gritted and when.
Share information with service users on your winter plan and let them know which roads and paths have been gritted and if any roads or paths should be avoided.
You can also share information with local residents on how they can help themselves and their neighbours. This could include removing snow when it is fresh, instead of after it has been compacted by footfall and traffic; never use water to clear snow and ice as this can refreeze and form black ice and  look out for vulnerable neighbours if you are able.
Winter road maintenance is a big task, but forward planning can make a big difference in protecting your roads, improving safety, saving money and making a big difference for your service users.