Update: County Hall defends policy after West Craven gritting criticism

The snow and traffic chaos in Kelbrook Road, Barnoldswick, on Thursday morning. (S)
The snow and traffic chaos in Kelbrook Road, Barnoldswick, on Thursday morning. (S)

Lancashire County Council has defended its gritting policy after snow drove West Craven to a grinding halt during the morning rush hour.

Scores of people took to social media to express exasperation and frustration as settling snow caused chaos while West Craven County Coun. David Whipp demanded answers from the county council about how much grit the county’s spreaders laid after Wednesday’s weather warning for snowfall.

Kelbrook Road in Barlick through to Kelbrook itself was at a standstill after a reported few millimetres of snowfall and Manchester Road between Barnoldswick and Blacko was closed because of snow.

There were reports that the Bracewell road between Barnoldswick and the A59 was dangerous, as was Colne Road and Skipton Road through Earby and Kelbrook.

The gridlock meant journey times from Barnoldswick to Colne were up to two hours. Roads were reportedly clearing by late morning.

Coun. Whipp said: “Kelbrook Road was complete chaos, with traffic crawling along at a snails pace, if that, causing massive delays for motorists and those on public transport.

“Traffic on side streets and on Skipton Road was moving with care, but Kelbrook Road was appalling.

“I know gritters had travelled the road before 11pm on Wednesday as I saw them myself, but I wonder if they were applying an increased amount of grit for the expected conditions?

“There was a thin film of ice on parts of the road, which at times brought heavy vehicles to a halt.

“Many school pupils abandoned their journey to schools in Colne, as buses failed to turn up with delays of over three quarters of an hour and buses were late bringing pupils from Earby to West Craven High School.

“I’m demanding answers from the county council on the timing and rate of spread and calling for changes in gritting to prevent such problems recurring.”

But a Lancashire County Council spokesman has defended the way the roads are gritted, saying that it works to a nationally agreed framework for winter treatment.

The spokesman said that when snow is forecast, a formula which consists of 97% rock salt and 3% molasses, a by-product of the sugar refining industry, is used, the latter making the salt sticky so it doesn’t get blown off. When it’s actually snowing, he said pure rock salt is used because it is more effective.

Duncan Reeve, Lancashire County Council highways operations manager, added: “Our crews began gritting across the county on Wednesday afternoon and stayed out throughout the night and into Thursday to treat the roads during the sleet, hail and snow showers.

“The routes we treat whenever freezing weather is forecast, including all A and B roads, single routes into villages, and services such as transport hubs, have been gritted a number of times over the last 24 hours.

“Some of the showers have been heavy, resulting in quite difficult localised conditions at times. The salt works by mixing with the ice to form a solution with a lower freezing temperature and needs the action of vehicle tyres to activate it.

“This means that a heavy shower can result in roads being icy for a time, even after being gritted, which is why we emphasise the need to drive to the conditions.

“Our priority is to keep traffic moving and the main routes have been passable with care.”