Met Office in gritting row

A 750 tonnes mountain of grit salt next to the new 4,000 tonnes salt storage barn at Wigan Coucil's Sovereign Road Depot
A 750 tonnes mountain of grit salt next to the new 4,000 tonnes salt storage barn at Wigan Coucil's Sovereign Road Depot

WEATHER bosses have received an icy blast from furious Wigan Council chiefs.

They are blaming the weathermen for icy mornings faced by motorists across the borough. Gritting bosses at the depot in Ince rely on an emergency call warning them of a plunge in temperatures before turning out the gritters to treat the borough’s main road network.

But in the recent return to shivering temperatures, that call never came through and lorries remained in the depot.

The last weather report provided to them from the Met Office only confirmed ‘‘zero degrees dry, hoar frost, no ice,’’ so it was decided that no gritting was necessary.

It was the later plunge in temperatures, not reported to them, which caused problems, including a spate of accidents.

Now council bosses are planning a meeting with the Met Office to make their complaint face-to-face.

Metro highways manager Mark McCartney said in a recent email seen by the Evening Post that the town was let down by the weathermen because no emergency call came through.

Overnight emergency gritting operations are run by two officers, who monitor the weather, call out drivers, open the depot, load gritters, close the depot at the end of the shift and carry out inspections when required.

He said: “As part of the contract for the weather forecasting process through all 10 AGMA authorities across Greater Manchester, the Met Office is expected to contact the duty rota managers of any significant changes to the weather through the night.

‘This process has been in place for the last nine years, after superseding the night shift officer role in Wigan and we pay for them to contact us as part of their contract.

‘This year we awarded the contract to the Met Office. The council officer correctly acted in not treating the roads network from the information he had been provided with.

“When the weather starts to change from the forecast, we would expect a Met Office forecaster to ring us up and inform us of the pending changes, but this did not happen.”

They have now invited senior managers from the Met Office to the next Greater Manchester winter maintenance group meeting to discuss levels of service.

Opposition leader on the Metro, Coun Gary Wilkes, had been calling for a probe after claiming that he had witnessed a number of accidents related to the lack of gritting.

He said: “In Bryn and Ashton the bus did not use the estates due to the icy conditions. I have fully appreciated their hard work in the pas,t especially over the Christmas period, but would like to know why no one came out on this night?’’

A spokesman for the Meterological Office said that they had spoken to Wigan Council and addressed the issues raised.

She said: ‘‘Our forecasts have been very accurate this week and no complaints have been received. We will be attending the next meeting as we are keen to work with our customers and make sure they receive accurate and good advice from us.’’