New vehicles fight winter weather across South East

Image caption,
The new winter maintenance vehicles will collect salt from barns where thousands of tonnes are stored

A fleet of new vehicles is standing by to treat motorways and major roads in the South East in case the bad weather of previous winters is repeated.

The Highways Agency said it had learnt from the last two winters and strengthened its capacity to face extended spells of severe weather.

More than 100 new vehicles will be used across Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and parts of Berkshire.

The vehicles can clear snow and spread dry, treated and pre-wetted salt.

The Agency said the new fleet would provide maximum flexibility for treating the motorways and major A roads for which it is responsible.

Last winter was the most severe in the South East for 30 years.

One snowfall in January saw between 35cm (14in) and 40cm (16in) of snow falling in Surrey and drivers being forced to abandon their cars.

Extra salt has been ordered and is being stored at salt barns such as the one at Leatherhead depot near junction 9 of the M25.

Image caption,
An automatic system for applying anti-freeze has been installed on the A2 at Dover

"We have strengthened our supply arrangement, we are getting more salt in and we are working with local authorities to offer a joined-up approach," said the Agency's spokesman James Wright.

"We are as ready as we can possibly be."

A total of 27 of the new vehicles, which use computer technology to control salt spreading, will serve the M25, with five in reserve.

Dry salt is mixed with a brine liquid before it is applied to the road surface.

"The advantage of that is we use 25% less salt and it is more active as soon as it goes down on the carriageway to prevent ice forming," said regional winter manager Steve Stace.

"We are well prepared, we have rehearsed all our plans and we have got staff, resources and equipment to deal with whatever the weather can throw at us."

An automatic system has also been installed on the A2 viaduct leading into the Port of Dover, in Kent, to apply anti-freeze to the road surface when cold weather is detected.

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