With the British still unsure whether they can travel this year to spend Christmas with their families and loved ones, the Department of Transportation announced today that it has spent £ 16 million on 93 new spreaders.
The vehicles will be made available to Highways England for clearing motorways and major trunk roads, although winter traffic is expected to be lower due to restrictions and concerns about mixing with other households due to the pandemic.
The substantial investment in new gritting vehicles using heavily polluting seven-liter diesel engines comes just days after Boris Johnson announced his 10-point plans for the "Green Industrial Revolution".
This included an accelerated ban on gasoline and diesel cars in 2030 to encourage more drivers to buy expensive electric cars and a consultation to understand how new heavy duty diesel vehicles will be phased out in the UK.
Not very environmentally friendly spreading investment: DfT has spent £ 16m to add 93 new spreaders to its 500-strong winter vehicle fleet
The timing of the investment has been questioned by many, especially if the government does not allow British people to spend time with their families during the holiday season because of concerns about spikes in coronavirus infection rates.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was reluctant to engage with the December 3rd lockdown.
When asked about a possible extension of the deadline earlier this week at a press conference in Downing Street, he said, “The answer is that it is too early to know how many cases we will have by the end of the current curfew . & # 39;
If the lockdown ends as originally planned, England will revert to a tiered restriction system that is likely to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, forcing many businesses to stay closed and millions of people working from home.
The RAC says traffic has only dropped five percent since Lockdown 2 in England on November 5th. However, he also points out that the average daily travel lengths are a quarter shorter (minus 24 percent).
According to reports, the four British nations are now trying to find a common approach to Christmas so that families across the UK can still spend time together.
The government has strengthened its scattering capacity, although traffic is expected to be lower this winter due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic
Despite the uncertainty, the government has announced that it will spend £ 16 million to add 93 new spreaders to Highways England's fleet, which already includes 535 vehicles, most, if not all, of which are diesel-powered.
This includes 23 snow blowers that can remove up to 2,500 tons of snow per hour.
A further £ 40 million will be invested by Highways England to add over 250 replacement winter vehicles to the fleet, the DfT announced this morning.
It shared the image of one of 93 new vehicles – a Volvo powered by a 7.7 liter diesel engine.
The announcement comes just two days after the prime minister set out his intention to steer the country on a path to carbon-free emissions by 2050.
This included a ban on the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars and vans from 2030 to encourage more drivers to switch to greener electric vehicles.
However, it was also confirmed that the minister would discuss how to step up efforts to phase out diesel trucks.
"A consultation on phasing out new heavy-duty diesel vehicles to make Britain the vanguard of zero-emission freight is also underway," was also confirmed on Wednesday.
This includes 93 expensive new spreaders added to Highway England's fleet, potentially limiting the number of years they will be on our roads.
The addition of 93 new polluting diesel spreaders comes just two days after Boris Johnson announced plans for a consultation on how to remove diesel trucks from our roads as part of his 10-point plan for the green industrial revolution
While there are currently no options for all-electric gritters, the government's reliance on diesel fuel for their own fleets is likely to frustrate motorists who are unhappy about not being able to buy new gasoline and diesel cars by 2030.
An investigation last month found that of the 1,525 vehicles the DfT is currently using, only 22 are purely electric models.
Incredibly, 1,328 of the department's engines – that's 87 percent of the fleet – are diesel engines. This is based on figures reported to Air Quality News in a Freedom of Information request.
The investigation found that the government has made little progress in converting low-emission cars from scratch.
In 2018, ministers promised that a quarter of central government vehicles would be electric by 2022.
To do this, the DfT would have to increase its electric car fleet from 22 to 381 over the next two years.
Road Minister Baroness Vere announced the sizeable investment in diesel spreaders, saying it was of great importance "to ensure that key transport routes to the Covid-19 test centers remain open and run smoothly this winter".
The Baroness has also written to the councils, urging them to see that their salt and sand supplies are replenished so that key routes such as hospitals and Covid-19 test stations are well maintained as the country harder prepares for the potential challenge Weather.
Secretary of Transportation Grant Shapps said, “We have worked tirelessly with the country's highway teams to ensure our transportation networks remain open and functional in all weather conditions.
& # 39; This year it is more important than ever that the UK is prepared for winter as we continue to fight the pandemic.
"Through this work we will ensure that the main routes to the Covid-19 test centers remain open in the coming months."
Jim O & # 39; Sullivan, General Manager of Highways England added that the division's reinforced winter fleet will treat the roads "around the clock" if ice or snow is forecast.
And although the potential for the British's festive travel is limited by the government. He added that "it is still important that drivers plan their trips" and "that they are prepared for winter weather and drive safely in all conditions".
Gritters went into effect in Scotland this morning and have fought against a wintry backdrop
Temperatures drop to near zero as the UK gets its first proper winter flavor for the first time with blizzards and floods on the way
by Tom Payne, Daily Mail
Britain is set to get its first real winter flavor later this week, with temperatures nearing zero and snow and flooding on the way.
Gritter trucks spreading salt and sand against a wintry backdrop in Scotland this morning. The Met Office insisted that snowstorms are also possible at "lower levels" in northern England.
Elsewhere, warnings have been issued along the North Norfolk coast where there are fears that the tide, lashed by the stronger winds, will inundate defenses and flood homes and businesses.
The Thames Barrier will also be closed, with strong north winds creating a storm surge that is expected to be directed along the Thames Estuary.
As the mercury drops towards freezing point and temperatures are already 2 ° C north of the border, police urge drivers to be careful and warn that trees could be toppled by storms.
Weather forecasts predict sleet and hail will hit the UK with lows of 1 ° C (33 ° F) for the remainder of the week, after hitting a mild 17 ° C in spots a few days ago.
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