Council’s real time grit tracker to keep drivers on the move

ROAD users are set to have real time displays of gritting operations across the Capital as part of a major investment to battle severe weather.

New communications systems would allow drivers to determine which roads had been treated and plan their journey, according to a new winter weather strategy by the city council.

All local authority gritters have been equipped with GPS tracking devices to give control centre staff an up-to-the-minute account of the operation.

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Arrangements are also in place to install the same equipment on mini tractors clearing pavements so city residents would know which were safe to use.

Although the technology will be in place for council teams to use this winter, a version for the public is expected to take some time to design.

Council chiefs hope to roll out the technology for use with home computers and applications for devices such as iPhones and iPads in the future.

Paul Watters, head of road policy at the AA, said the move could make a huge difference to local authority operations and the public.

He said: “This measure would be incredibly useful and I’d like to think this is something other local authorities will invest in.

“I’m not actually aware of this system but I’m sure many of the winter equipment manufacturers will provide this to local authorities, so it wouldn’t take much to make it available to the public.

“Last winter in particular, when the authorities were running short on grit and salt, people would have liked to know if they could get to work or not.

“It’s the extra information that is particularly useful as you’re seeing the real activity, so drivers could make minute by minute decisions rather than chancing it.”

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He added: “With all the grit and ploughing in the world, sometimes it’s not possible to keep up with the weather, so the more information road users have the better.

In his winter weather report, Mark Turley, director of the services for communities department, said communication was a key area the council could improve on, including using the microblogging site Twitter to get information to the public.

A customer hub would be set up to deal with increased calls concerning winter weather.

He also said salt stocks were at 23,000 tonnes. Last year there were just 7500 tonnes when 16,000 were needed.

A separate report also details plans to turn the city car pound on Tower Street in Leith into a depot for 7500 tonnes of salt should gritters need emergency supplies.

A spokeswoman for the city council said: “During severe winter weather, it is of paramount importance that we keep the city moving, and to do so it is vital we inform residents of which roads and streets have been gritted.

“Using GPS tracking on all of the council’s gritting vehicles enables us to better coordinate our emergency response to extreme temperatures. Once the technology has been tried and tested, we hope to be able to use the information to inform the public directly