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Local highway authorities have a duty under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the local highways network in their area. In relation to snow, a local authority's section 41 duty includes the requirement
“to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice”.
Central Government have no powers to intervene in these matters in relation to local authority roads—winter service planning and salt stock supplies are the responsibility of the respective highway authorities. The Department is working closely with the local highways sector on ensuring that local highway authorities are prepared for any severe winter weather.
In respect of the Highways Agency, as a result of lessons learned and continuous improvement over a number of seasons, the agency has developed a robust winter service to assist motorists in the event of severe winter weather.
This includes: a fleet of 500 state of the art winter vehicles on stand-by, supported by tried and tested winter resilience plans; an adequate supply of operational and strategic salt stock in place at the start of the season; a Freight Snow Warning System in place to help the road haulage industry and drivers of goods and high-sided vehicles respond to warnings of severe weather or snow; an improved strategic incident management (Crisis Management Procedure) system that has been developed and implemented.
The Highways Agency has also improved its winter communications to provide traffic advice to motorists, including: greater adoption and wider use of Variable Messaging Signs to help manage the strategic road network by providing advanced warning to drivers of emergencies and incidents; the use social media sites to advise motorists of any major traffic incidents; undertaking an extensive stakeholder engagement programme.
The agency has also published advice to road users this winter, in a series of information notes under the theme, “Make time for winter”. These notes can be found online at: