A former leader of Cheshire East Council says the decision to cut gritting routes hasn't even saved any money
Cheshire East should urgently investigate the number of crashes in Audlem since the council stopped gritting some roads, councillors have said.
Former council leader Rachel Bailey told Thursday's (January 13) meeting of the highways and transport committee that Coole Lane, which the council stopped gritting as part of its new policy, was so treacherous on Friday (January 7) the police called Highways England to grit it.
Current Conservative group leader Janet Clowes questioned whether the cost-cutting measure was even saving money.
Cllr Clowes said: “We’ve enjoyed relatively mild weather this year, but have had two adverse winter weather periods since December, which has resulted in a significant number of road traffic incidents on routes that were removed from the gritting schedule.
“The majority were not associated with poor driving.
“We’ve been told that this schedule will be reviewed in April 2022 but, as part of that review, I would ask that this committee consider how much will repairs incurred by RTI (road traffic incidents) on routes removed from the gritting schedule add to the highways budget?
"I refer to incidents such as significant damage to the road bridge on Coole Lane near Audlem, damage to hedges and roadside infrastructure and this is not an exhaustive list.”
She added: “What are the indirect costs of partner agencies, for example BT to replace telegraph poles damaged in these same RTIs, police intervention for emergency road management, Cheshire Fire and Rescue, NHS ambulance and hospital treatment costs?”
Committee chair Craig Browne replied: “I will not speak about the specific example of Coole Lane or any other specific examples because, clearly, there will need to be an investigation into these incidents and the causes of those accidents will need to be established.
"But, generally speaking, where there are accidents on our road network, once the causality has been established, I believe we would seek to recover any costs that are related to damage caused to the highway network or any infrastructure from the insurer of the driver that’s found to be at fault.”
Cllr Bailey told the committee: “There has been yet another RTC (road traffic collision) this morning (Thursday) which closed off Audlem village whilst the blue light services left to go to that person’s help.
“It is not at a point on the lane where you can speed, it is again on the canal bridge, which narrows, it’s a pinch point.”
She added: “I would urge you to not delay this investigation any further because every day that we have a frost, someone utilising Coole Lane falls victim to black ice Coole Lane needs to be expedited now before something unthinkable happens.”
Highways boss Andrew Ross said the investigation would be part of the review.
“We’re likely to be talking about events and considerations in general terms rather than any specific instances,” he said.
“If there are any highway issues that they emergency services have identified, we can build those into consideration in a general sense and report but we’re unlikely to be raising very specific instances.”
Cllr Bailey replied: “Last Friday (January 7), the police asked their duty contact at highways to say the lane was unsafe and that it required gritting and the result was that part of the lane was gritted.”
The former council leader said she is now planning to hold a meeting with the parish council chairman and local police to see what can be done on a ward basis.
This article is by courtesy of Cheshire Live