Only a fifth of the roads in Cornwall, the scene of a coach crash in which two women were killed and 47 people injured yesterday, were gritted ahead of the tragedy, it has been revealed.
Cornwall County Council has admitted that just 20% of its 7,250km road network is treated during winter weather, a day after two people were killed and 47 people injured in a coach crash on an untreated road.
Cornwall Council is responsible for over 7,520km of road from major principal roads to narrow country lanes, spending more than £1.35M keeping roads open and safe during the winter months.
With one of the largest road networks in the country to deal with, it said it is not possible to pre salt all the roads in the county. In a statement, it said that its highways service has, therefore, identified a priority list of routes based on the Code of Practice used by all highways authorities in the UK. “This includes the most heavily trafficked roads in the county, access to key sites such as hospitals, minor injury units and fire stations, and B roads which are not included in the list above. This comprises some 1,400km of road in Cornwall - approximately 20% of the total road network,” said the statement.
“The council’s winter service plan requires its team of 25 pre salting lorries to treat all A and B roads in Cornwall on a pro-active basis, with minor roads treated on a reactive basis. Highways staff are on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week – including Christmas Day –which enables them to respond to emergency situations at very short notice.
“Salting of roads is a precautionary treatment to reduce the freezing point of water in frosty conditions and is designed to reduce the possibility of skidding or more serious accidents. However even on pre treated roads salting will not stop heavy snow from settling and sleet, hail and rain can cause problems with the salt being washed off the road. It will also not prevent the formation of black ice when rain falls on sub zero roads.”
“Public safety is of paramount concern and we do everything we can to provide as safe a passage as possible for people who use our roads” said Simon Deacon, Highways Operations Manager for Cornwall Council. “However it is vital that people do not assume that a road has been salted and we would urge drivers to ensure that they drive according to the road conditions”.
Cornwall Council Leader Alec Robertson has expressed his sympathy to the people involved in last night’s coach crash and has praised the efforts of the emergency services involved in the incident.
Robertson visited the scene of the accident at Godolphin Bridge, Townshend, Hayle in the early hours of this morning. He said the incident would come as a tremendous shock to the local community.
Forty four personnel and five appliances from Cornwall Council’s Fire and Rescue Service attended the scene.
Police confirmed that a police car on its way to help had skidded on the icy hill at Godolphin Bridge, near Penzance, and collided with the coach. No one was thought to have been hurt in this second accident.
Officers said the coach was fitted with lap belts but it remained unclear whether all the passengers, mainly elderly people, had been strapped in.
The coach is understood to have left the road shortly after 10pm yesterday, hit a tree and ploughed through a hedge before coming to a stop on its side near the village of Townshend, about 10km north-east of Penzance.