Aberdeen gritting teams were fighting a six-hour cycle to keep the city’s streets safe amid the worst of the cold snap this month.
Doug Ritchie, the council’s roads infrastructure manager, revealed the local authority has, since Christmas, used one and a half times as much salt on roads and pavements as it did all of last winter.
The claim, which demonstrates the challenge roads workers have been facing to reduce slips and falls in the city, was made in response to tales of carers having to grit the paths around sheltered housing, which were seemingly missed by gritting teams.
Council staff spread around 5.5 tonnes of grit last year.
Efforts not going far enough
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s operations committee, Midstocket and Rosemount councillor Bill Cormie raised concerns the ramped up efforts were still not going far enough.
He said: “There were no pathway gritters seen at all on priority routes.
“For example, Rosemount Place had not been seen to be done.
“Normally when the big gritters go down they can spread the grit on pavements on either side, whether it was the Spaces For People (one way system) interrupting with the cones or not, the grit was not getting on to the pavements.”
Mr Cormie asked whether staff shortages had left pedestrians in the precarious predicament.
But Mr Ritchie said his staff were working “flat out” to ensure resident safety, battling a six-hour cycle where gritted pavements would soon freeze over once again.
He told members: “Temperatures started to drop just after Christmas and I can assure the members we have had full crews out every day since then, both on gritters and on the footpath gritters.
“Most gritters are doing their first grit between 4am and 6am and thereafter then move on to the priority two routes.
“What has been challenging is that we are resetting every six hours as the moment it thaws, the water washes off the salt and then it freezes over again.
“So, literally, we are working flat out and are finding we are back to square one very quickly.
“It’s not where we are having snow lying and then salt gets time to work, a lot of it is getting washed off.
“Currently we have used – in the last two and half weeks – one and a half times the amount of salt we used for the whole of last winter.”
‘Is this going to happen next year as well?’
NHS Grampian reported 500 people had been hurt in slips and falls as temperatures dropped over the festive period, requiring treatment as the health board continues to battle the pandemic.
It represented a near 3,000% increase in slip injuries, burdening the emergency department.
Operations convener John Wheeler, running the recent meeting over video call, ruled it would be unfair to allow Mr Cormie to ask if this year’s gritting was a sign of things to come in future years.
Mr Cormie, a veteran SNP councillor, said: “I’m not saying it wasn’t done but crews were never out to sheltered housing in my ward – the carers round these complexes had to do the gritting themselves.
“I’m asking if this is going to happen next year as well, is this the future for my constituents?”
Conservative Mr Wheeler replied: “I’m not sure if you can ask Mr Ritchie to look into the future and I’m afraid I know no more than he does.
“I don’t have a crystal ball either so I’m afraid I can’t give you any indication as to what the future might hold.”