National Highways has signed three new weather forecasting contracts worth a total of £4m with the Met Office, DTN and MetDesk.
The four-year contracts will see the Met Office provide weather advisories and contingency planning forecasts for National Highways’ National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) in Birmingham, with MetDesk delivering winter service forecasting information in the north and south of England, and DTN in central England.
The arrangement will give National Highways weather information 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, as well as precise location and route-based forecasts, helping teams make critical decisions about weather-related maintenance and management, including where and when to deploy gritters in winter.
Its operational winter season runs from October to April, during which time National Highways will make particular use of 24-hour forecasts, two-to-10-day forecasts, site specific forecasts and route-based forecast mapping.
James Cross, weather forecasting manager at National Highways, said: 'The comprehensive data provided by our new forecasters gives our teams the confidence they need to ensure that the effects of severe weather on the strategic road network and our customers are mitigated as far as practicable.
'The weather forecasts supplied under these contracts provide a robust resource of weather information for our National Traffic Operations Centre and our Asset Delivery area teams.'
Abigail Oakes, senior account manager at the Met Office, said: 'Our staff, be that Meteorologists embedded alongside the National Highways team in Birmingham during the winter, or Met Office staff working from Exeter to deliver and support throughout the year, are proud to continue this partnership, helping to keep the strategic road network safe and operating efficiently.'
Andy Giles, MetDesk managing director, added: ' MetDesk shares a common vision with National Highways and we look forward to establishing a close, collaborative working relationship over the next few years.'
Renny Vandewege, vice president of weather operations at DTN, said: 'Our route-based forecasts provide location-specific information along each gritting route and for each route in total. A hyperlocal forecast can help winter road maintenance managers make critical decisions on where, when, and how to grit across one or more road sections. Our meteorologists with extensive road-specific experience also offer alerting and consultations to provide deeper insights when needed.'
The recent Storm Eunice prompted National Highways to issue a Red Alert in the south of the country urging people not to travel. When severe weather is forecast drivers should follow this advice:
In snow and ice
Drivers should stick to the main roads where they can and only travel if necessary - drivers are also encouraged to make sure they have a snow kit in their vehicle, including an ice scraper and de-icer, warm clothes and blankets and sunglasses to cope with the low winter sun.
In high winds
There’s a particular risk to lorries, caravans and motorbikes, so drivers should slow down and avoid using exposed sections of road if possible.
In heavy rain
Drivers should keep well back from the vehicle in front, gradually ease off the accelerator if the steering becomes unresponsive, and slow down if the rain and spray from vehicles makes it difficult to see and be seen.
Drivers should switch on their fog lights and not use lights on full beam as the fog will reflect the light back. If you really cannot see, you should consider finding a safe place to stop until it is safe to continue.