Westminster shows grit and determination to fight snow

Council earns praise as transport routes are kept ice free

THE recent cold snap has ravaged transport routes and walkways throughout the country and Westminster is no exception, battling round the clock to stop the effects of the heavy snowfall.

Almost 1,500 tonnes of grit have been spread throughout the borough over the past month, including 500 tonnes last weekend alone, as the council tries to stay on top of freezing ice.

Indeed while some train services have been disrupted into and out of Paddington and Marylebone stations, the majority of the main bus routes have been kept free from ice.

David Hogarth, of Westminster Older People’s Action, praised the council’s efforts and said he didn’t think elderly people in the borough had been too adversely affected.

“The snow certainly hasn’t really stopped me,” he said.

“I’ve still been able to take elderly people out to church and other activities we normally do.

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“Having said that, some of the pavements are quite dangerous.

“But the whole thing seems to be a bit worse in Camden than in Westminster. I would say as much has been done as possible in Westminster.”

Last month the council introduced a new fleet of six hi-tech gritting machines fitted with satellite positioning technology which have been in use 24 hours a day.

It also has six smaller gritters for footpaths, 60 manual spreaders and 200 grit bins having pre-emptively stockpiled more than three times as much grit as last winter.

North Westminster MP Karen Buck said: “I think so far they haven’t done too bad a job.

“But some of the worst places are on estates and side roads where the pavements in particular are not always dealt with as quickly as they should be.

“Given how tough it is to deal with it all I don’t think it has been too bad.”

Her view was echoed by Church Street Councillor Barbara Grahame who said it was understandable that main roads were given priority over residential areas.

However, chairman of the Hyde Park Safer Neighbourhood Panel Jack Gordon said it was the determination of residents and shopkeepers – not the council – who deserved praise for battling the snow.

“I think there has been a slow and gradual return normality but you couldn’t say that it was down to the council,” he said.

“It’s more down to zealous shopkeepers that want to keep the front of their shops clear or residents who have done the same.

“I think the council relies on the vagaries of the weather and the possibility that it might creep above freezing because they haven’t been out doing much work.

“If the council showed some true grit they would get some of it on the pavements.”

Westminster Council cabinet member for city management, councillor Ed Argar said: “At Westminster we pride ourselves on being well prepared for the snow, with pre-emptive gritting based on a close watch on the weather.

“Our staff work tirelessly throughout the night to ensure that roads and pavements are kept clear to ensure that life can continue as normally as possible for all our residents and visitors.

“However we would ask residents to check on their neighbours especially those who may be vulnerable and in need of assistance.”