As Aberdeen sleeps, a team of high-viz vest clad men take to the snowy city streets to prepare for the oncoming rush.
With the Beast from the East battering the region, the Press and Journal was given a unique insight into the city council gritter team’s battle to keep the city moving.
Leaving Tullos depot at 4.30am, the plough-mounted vehicle – which weighs 18 tonnes when fully loaded – fought its way through virgin snow to begin its 36-mile route.
With a network of more than 560 miles of roads and 1,242 miles of pavements, and snow falling heavily throughout the journey, it was hard not to think of the neverending task of painting the Forth Bridge.
But the salt shot out of the back of the lorry, at a rate of 20 grams per square foot, quickly dissolves and is spread by wheels of other cars.
Key priority routes, such as those used by buses are first to be targeted. Dangerous junctions are given an extra “blast” of salt, with the driver having to be careful that the snowplough does not emerge too far.
The regular winter roads team is made up of around 90 staff, 25 road gritters, 19 pavement gritters and more than 8,500 tonnes of salt in stock – with more on the way.
And although the team will do what it can to treat the key routes, our driver admits there is one problem they struggle to overcome – badly parked cars.
On the ride down Heathryfold Circle, one car was half-mounted on a pavement, forcing the massive truck to reverse back.
Luckily, as the drivers usually do the same routes to allow them accustomise and learn its intricacies, the task of reversing back up the one-way street passed without incident.
However, the driver then then had to radio the control room to say that he couldn’t complete the street as the council would be liable for any damage to the car.
And he admitted later that angry residents would now likely complain to the council that their street had been ignored.
As the sky turned purple and newsagents and bakeries began to show signs of life, a power cut hit Aberdeen – which, combined with the snow hurtling – made it all but impossible to see up the street, highlighting the challenges these drivers face every day to keep the city moving.
City council transport spokesman Ross Grant said: “‘I have had daily meetings with service managers and all relevant council departments and the council is working flat out to keep the city moving.
“I would continue to urge residents to be prepared for disruption and delays, to take care if they are out and about and give extra time for travel and to remain patient as we continue to tackle conditions.
“Conditions are very challenging and the forecasts suggest that there is more still to come. The council is working flat out to keep things moving and keep residents informed on the ongoing operation. I’d like to genuinely thank our winter maintenance crews who have been working tirelessly gritting the roads, footways and cycle paths to keep the city moving.
“It’s a team effort of course and I’d like to thank our grounds maintenance staff as well our communications team and customer contact centre who are also working to keep residents informed throughout.”