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Sussex transport bosses 'proud of response' to snow crisis
A transport boss said she was ‘proud’ of how the city council dealt with the snowfall which left thousands of motorists stranded.
Council chiefs also claim they did everything they could and were better prepared this time around.
Traffic across Sussex was brought to a whiteout standstill with more than 200 reported crashes, hundreds of abandoned vehicles littering the roadside and tailbacks stretching 20 miles.
Motorists were left to spend the night in their cars on the A23 and Brighton and Hove’s bus service was suspended as 10cms of snow fell in 24 hours.
Fifteen foot of snow collected in Beachy Head Road and it is expected to take three days to clear.
The transport chaos brought angry responses from residents and led one MP to describe the gritting works as “woefully inadequate”.
However, council bosses defended their operations saying their teams worked round the clock since the weekend to try and keep roads as clear as possible.
They blamed a perfect storm of constant snowfall for 24 hours, previous wet weather which had stopped earlier treatment of roads, the difficulty of gritting vehicles getting past abandoned and immobile cars and 50 mph winds for limiting the effectiveness of council workers’ hard work.
Christina Liassides, head of highways operations at Brighton and Hove City Council, said difficulties started with mild, wet weather at the end of last week which prevented pre-treatment of roads before Saturday.
Weather forecasts had initially warned of up to 3cm but this increased to 10cm by Monday evening (March 11) although Ms Liassides said that advance warning of the severity of the snow would not have changed the council’s response.
She calculated that her team had travelled more than 1,000 miles since Sunday (March 10) and dispensed about 360 tonnes of gritting material.
Proud of team
Ms Liassides said it was probably the worst winter circumstances the city had experienced since February 2010 but claimed that the authority was better prepared to deal with the weather this time around.
She added: “We are a very small team but I am very proud of what they did, everybody worked extremely hard.”
However, Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby slammed the council’s response and has contacted the authority to seek answers as to why the city seemed so unprepared for the recent snow fall.
He said: “Clearly from the massive disruption witnessed on Monday evening and the experiences being relayed to me by constituents in the city this morning, the approach from Brighton and Hove City Council was woefully inadequate.”
Tony Roberts, who spent 14 hours travelling from Essex to Portslade, was just one frustrated driver to contact The Argus.
He said: “The road was absolutely abysmal.
“If they had gritted it properly, there is no way it should have been like that.”
Roger Williams, East Sussex County Council head of highways, said his staff had been working round the clock since Sunday evening.
The council used 3,000 tonnes including 100 tonnes between 6pm and 6am during five rounds on Monday night.
Teams have also been hand gritting town centre pavements and filling up salt bins in the worst affected areas.
He said: “We did everything we possibly could do, there’s nothing we would do differently.
“If we were to replay the last 36 hours, we would do the same thing again because we were doing the right things.
“People need to take personal responsibility, prepare themselves and ask themselves whether they really need to make that journey.
“I am really sorry that people got stuck but we did manage to get everyone home safe.”
Nights in cars
The Highways Agency came in for some of the strongest criticism after motorists were forced to spend the night trapped on the A23 at Handcross Hill.
An agency spokeswoman said their fleet of 24 gritting machines had treated the road with a water solution from 10pm on Sunday, March 10 and also had specialist recovery vehicles and tractors in place.
She added: “So we were trying to treat roads with vehicles broken down, high winds and snow drifts.
"We did everything we possibly could to keep the roads open, including pulling in resources elsewhere but the sheer volume of snow and type of weather we were experiencing was quite heavy, particularly for this time of year.”
West Sussex County Council’s contractor Balfour Beatty used 1,200 tonnes of salt in 24 hours with their fleet of 24 gritters covering all 21 county-wide routes at 6pm on Sunday, 8am, 1pm, and 8pm on yesterday, and at 2am, 8am, and 1pm today.
They are all due to go out again at 8pm tonight and 2am tomorrow morning (March 14)
Councillor Pieter Montyn, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “It became difficult because there was a lot of wind, cars were getting stuck and abandoned and then these blocked the routes stopping gritters from getting round.
“I think it must have been dreadful for drivers who were caught out and I am sorry for those where it happened, it must have been very, very frustrating for those caught up in it.”
Did you see gritters on the road?
What do you think could have been done to improve conditions and prevent the crisis on the roads?
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