On Saturday (September 27th) 25 gritters will be driven around West Sussex as part of Operation Snowflake – the county’s winter weather rehearsal ahead of the coming colder months. It is a dry run to test the County Council’s response to icy and snow weather events on the roads.
The test is essential preparation to help the County Council keep main roads, approaches to hospitals, approaches to schools and colleges, and busy bus routes safe once the weather takes a turn for the worse. Contractor Balfour Beatty runs the rehearsal every September.
Drivers use Operation Snowflake to check their gritters and equipment, such as snow ploughs, are all in good working order. They will use the day to familiarise themselves again with the routes, record any changes to the road network, and evaluate if there are ways to make their runs more efficient or quicker. No salt will be dropped on the roads during Saturday’s operation.
County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Pieter Montyn, said: “Operation Snowflake is a vital part of the preparation we need to make sure we keep the roads safe in the winter.
“Gritter drivers are so important because it is them out there at the dead of night, salting over two fifths of West Sussex’s roads when it freezes, to make it safer for us to travel next morning.
“There are always changes every winter to consider – for example this year the Haywards Heath Relief Road has to be added – so Operation Snowflake is the perfect way to get everyone ready before we do it for real.”
This year each driver has been given a key fob fitted with a Masternaut GPS vehicle tracker.
This will monitor the driver’s speed and pin-point where each gritter is on a map, in case of emergencies or break-downs.
Balfour Beatty has already stockpiled 10,500 tonnes of salt at the County Council depots in Drayton, Clapham and Jobs Lane, near Hickstead.