Wiltshire Council cabinet member for highways John Thomson is confident the county’s gritter fleet is as prepared as it can be ahead of the forecasted severe weather this winter.

The fleet, which includes 48 gritters and snow ploughs, is the first line of defence against snow and ice and has already done six runs across the county.

It will be the first winter since the council handed the five-year £150m highways maintenance contract to Balfour Beatty Living Places, which has come under much scrutiny since June.

The standard gritting route covers around 725 miles, or a quarter of the county’s road network, which can be increased to cover up to half the network if the weather is particularly severe.

Coun Thomson said: “I’m confident we have done everything we can do to prepare for any severe weather and all the Balfour Beatty crews have had training and will be fully equipped.

“Balfour Beatty has been criticised, but it is getting its act together and is performing well and the quality of work it is producing seems to be going down well with the community.”

During the average winter the fleet makes 40 routine runs and uses up to 9,000 tonnes of rock salt, which is delivered to eight county depots during the summer from mines in Cheshire.

There are also 1,600 salt bins to keep topped up across Wiltshire, and the council routinely works with town and parish councils to supply them their own salt to use in areas they consider most needy.

Cllr Thomson said: “It’s now a case of waiting to see what happens, but we are also prepared for floods and high winds if needed. I would urge motorists to help by making sure their vehicle is safe and to plan routes in advance.”

For more details, see www.wilt shire.gov.uk/gritting or follow @wiltshirewinter on Twitter.