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20/8/2012 - Wheels of progress for Cumbria`s highways service

A new fleet  of front line vehicles to maintain Cumbria's roads has been purchased  by Cumbria County Council as part of its new in-house highways service.

The fleet of nearly 150 vehicles represents an investment of over £ 7m by Cumbria County Council to improve and maintain the county's roads.
Half of the new fleet is comprised of tipper vehicles, ranging from 3.5 tonnes to 18 tonnes, which are used to transport materials such as rock, gravel, bitumen surfacing and salt around the county council's road network of 4,784 miles. Other vehicles include 6 new loading shovels based at the depots to transfer material into the tippers and load the gritters, 14 new vans to patrol communities and carry out immediate repair works and seven 'cherry pickers' for street lighting maintenance. The fleet also includes three Land Rovers and three 4x4 pick ups for off-road, hard-to-reach locations and support in severe weather conditions.

The winter service will be carried out by a new state-of-the-art fleet of 33 gritters with on-board computers and GPS mapping technology giving information on  temperatures and also controlling the spread  of rock salt. The gritters can also be fitted with snow ploughs, while two new four-wheel drive Unimog trucks can also be fitted with snow blowers to tackle some of the country's highest roads, which often face the most severe winter conditions.

Where possible the fleet vehicles have been designed to be interoperable, for example, the 18-tonne tipper trucks are also equipped to be fitted with snow ploughs to use as an extra winter resource, and the two four wheel drive Unimog winter maintenance vehicles can be adapted in the summer months to suit other emergency service uses.

The investment in the new fleet was triggered by the county council's decision to bring its highways service back as an in-house service at the end of the 7 year external service contract. The service was brought back in house in April 2012 and has not only given the council more direct control and flexibility over the work done by highways teams, it is also delivering savings to Cumbria's taxpayers.

Investing in new vehicles was assessed to be the most cost-effective option in the long term compared with hiring a fleet, leasing a fleet or buying second-hand vehicles, which could experience maintenance issues and do not have the length of warranties that come with new ones. The new vehicles incorporate the latest health and safety design features and also have the latest fuel-efficient engines.

The new fleet will work alongside the vehicles used by the council's framework contractors, who are still being called on to carry out more specialised work and larger jobs such as specialist surface dressing, resurfacing and complex civil engineering work.

Cllr Tony Markley, Cumbria County Council's Cabinet member responsible for highways, said:

"Cumbria has a fleet of vehicles and a team of highways staff and fleet management staff to be proud of. This investment in the highways service builds our resilience for the future and underlines our commitment to maintaining and improving the county's roads.

"The transition of the highways and fleet management service from Amey back to the county council has been a major undertaking. We have managed the transferral of nearly 300 employees, established a range of new framework contracts with external providers, and of course invested in our new fleet. I'm delighted to say that the whole undertaking has worked smoothly, effectively and efficiently so that our roads have been continuously maintained throughout the whole transition."

A number of jpegs showing the new fleet can be uploaded via the attached links.
Media enquiries to 01228 226338/ 221008/ 226601