Highway Winter Service deals with regular, frequent and reasonably predictable occurrences like low temperatures, ice and snow, as well as with exceptional events. Whilst the effects of climate change are likely to result in an increased frequency and intensity of severe winter events, these can be taken into account in Winter Service planning.
Therefore Winter Service can and should be subject to the same regime of plan, deliver, review and improve as other aspects of the highway maintenance regime. It is a year round process linked with the council's wider resilience planning strategy and is important in terms of the Performance Management Framework.
Responsibility for the delivery of Highway Winter Service rests with the council as the Highway Authority for Wirral. The Highway Winter Service Operational Plan sets out the standards for the treatment of the borough’s highway network as a consequence of winter weather; it sets out a framework of good practice within which the borough’s Winter Service provision is managed and reflects the recommendations and advice set out in the new Well-managed Highway Infrastructure: Code of Practice (October 2016).
In addition to this good practice, Section 41(1a) of the Highways Act 1980, as inserted by Section 111 of the Railways and Transport Act 2003, imposes a duty on the Council, as the Highway Authority, ‘....to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice’.
This policy sets out the council's approach and details how Winter Service will be managed. Its objectives are designed to support the “Wirral Council Plan: A 20:20 Vision”; the Plan sets out 20 pledges and is based around three key themes:
- Protecting the most vulnerable
- Driving economic growth; and
- Improving the local environment
To support these themes the Winter Service Policy can contribute significantly to the following:
- Safety -
Safety is a consideration for Winter Service, even though statutory obligations and users’ needs vary;
- Customer -
There are very considerable user needs and expectations and these can be a major influence on customer satisfaction through demonstrating an efficient, effective and proportionate response to winter conditions;
- Serviceability -
Maintaining availability and reliability of the highway network is a key objective for Winter Service and one where user judgements of performance will be immediate rather than longer term; and,
- Sustainability -
Low temperatures and the formation of ice can cause serious damage to the fabric of carriageways, footways and cycle routes and accelerated damage of the network. Effective Winter Service can contribute to a reduction in whole life costs and minimise damage to the environment.
The policy is based on the need to adopt priorities for Winter Service, which are coherent with wider objectives for transport, integration, accessibility and network management, including strategies for public transport, walking and cycling:
- maintain the resilience of the network
- consider treatment of facilities for public transport users
- consider treatment of facilities for road users
- consider treatment of facilities for walking and cycling;
- consider treatment of transport interchanges
- consider treatment of promoted facilities such as community or leisure centres
- consider the extent of priority for emergency services
- consider the extent of priority for key public services and critical infrastructure
- consider the extent of priority for vulnerable users
- maintain the resilience of Winter Service resources; and
- consider other local circumstances that maybe adversely affected
The Highway Winter Service Policy
This policy document outlines the Policy and key supporting principals defining the overall structure and direction the council will adopt in managing the highway network during the Winter Service period.
Although a very specialised area, Winter Service is a significant aspect of network management both financially and in terms of its perceived importance to users. It can also have significant environmental effects.
The organisation of the service is likely to have considerable implications for the overall procurement and management of other highway maintenance services.
The policy will allow informed decisions to be made regarding the investment judgements required to effectively maintain the whole network, and directly supports the strategic aims of the council.
The policy also supports the council’s statutory duty to maintain the highway through compliance with Section 41 of the Highways Act (1980) and to manage the network with the principals set out in the new national code of practice “Well-managed Highway Infrastructure” published in October 2016.
Wirral Council is committed to providing a good quality and robust Winter Service which best meets the needs of the council's road users, residents and businesses. The aim is to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable, that safe movement of vehicular and pedestrian traffic along the highway is not endangered by the presence of snow and ice.
Wirral Council will prioritise all aspects of Winter Service intervention and treatment choices using a risk-based approach taking into consideration the safety of stakeholder’s, customer expectations, network hierarchy, levels of use and environmental impact.
The policy will be reviewed in-line with the Highway Infrastructure Asset Management Strategy and the review of the Wirral Council Plan in order that it remains current and reflects and supports the Council’s objectives investing in the future of Wirral. However, if there are significant changes in national policy or Winter Service guidance that affects management of the resilient highway network, the review will be brought forward.
These reviews and subsequent development of our highway asset management approach will allow us to seek ways of working more efficiently.