The council has slashed its winter road treatment budget by around 25 per cent, but stresses this will not affect snow clearance and should not affect safety.
However the regime, introduced last year, will mean a “hierarchy” for road gritting, reducing Saturday gritting to the level of a Sunday, and no gritting at all on certain routes if alternatives are available. This winter will be the first where the new system has operated for a full season.
Other money-saving measures involve things that will not affect the public, such as the storage of salt, inspection services and manning of gritters.
The changes are designed to target resources, and will save around £370,000 per year for the council, which has traditionally spent on average £1.3 million a year on treating the 1,054 km of Shetland’s roads and 136 km of pavements in the winter.
Roads engineer Neil Hutcheson said the cost-cutting measures started last year, when £320,000 was saved – a lower figure than that expected this year as cuts were introduced later in the season and work was done on the council’s gritters.
This year, however, the council hopes to save £370,000. In total it will spend £900,000 on the winter programme, and spending will be around this level for the foreseeable future. Mr Hutcheson said the regime had been “considered at great length”, and stressed there would be no change in the quality of grit or salt used, and no change in the amount used on the roads, which follow national application rates.
The main winter regime will comprise pre-treatment, done in the afternoons before the rush hour to prevent the formation of ice and frost.
This will only be done on major routes.
Salting and gritting of ice and light snow will be done after it has formed, prior to the early morning rush hour.
When snow is falling, main roads and loops will be ploughed in order to keep them open.
Mr Hutcheson said: “Giving people notice of the changes is very important. If we notify them they should take more care, if they think they might encounter ice they might drive more appropriately.”
More details in Friday’s Shetland Times.