17/12/2004

Highways Agency and Met Office 'ready for winter'

Gritters and snowploughs are on standby, tested plans are in place to tackle ice and snow, and a new partnership with the Met Office will aim to provide motorists with better information as the Highways Agency prepares for winter weather.

The Minister for Roads, David Jamieson, recently visited the Agency's maintenance depot, situated alongside the M25 at Leatherhead, Surrey, to inspect the gritting fleet and hear about the Agency's winter service plans.

The Highways Agency has also issued an important safety message to drivers: "Make sure you and your vehicle are prepared for the cold, and if severe weather strikes, don't drive unless you have to."

Mr Jamieson said: "I have been pleased to see the plans that are in place to tackle the threat of ice and snow on the M25 and other major routes in the South East this winter. The gritters have already been out on these roads several times this season when icy conditions were forecast, and I have heard today that they remain on stand-by until the threat of wintry weather has passed.

"There is also an important safety message for drivers to be prepared for the worst of winter. In cold weather, drivers should check the forecast and road conditions before they set out and during their journey. Make sure you and your vehicle are prepared for the conditions."

A specialist team of three forecasters from the Met Office has been set up to work with Highways Agency roads experts at the National Traffic Control Centre in the West Midlands.

The team will aim to provide precise information on the impact of severe weather on major routes and allow the Agency to provide better quality advice and information to drivers.

Highways Agency Divisional Director for the South East, Bill Wadrup, said: "Throughout the winter the Highways Agency will be monitoring the weather carefully, and everything that can be done will be done to keep roads safe and open to traffic.

"This year we feel we are very well prepared to meet the challenges of winter. We have a new partnership with Met Office to help us give road users the best possible information when they have to travel in poor conditions. Our systems are better tested than ever and we stand ready to tackle ice and snow during poor weather.

"We also want road users to be better prepared for winter, including being ready with a 'winter emergency kit' of items such as warm clothes, food, water, boots, de-icer, a torch and a spade."

He said that in severe weather, the Agency wanted drivers to use the information provided and to ask themselves whether their journey was essential and whether it could be delayed until conditions improved.

(SP)

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