SATELLITE communications will help to keep the M62 and other major Yorkshire roads free of snow and ice this winter.

A sophisticated £250,000 global positioning satellite system has been fitted to the 53-strong fleet of gritters run by the Highways Agency in the region.

The system can track the location of gritters on the network and also uses CCTV to monitor salt spread, ensuring adequate salt coverage and more efficient use of resources.

The satellite system will pass this vital information back to the region's co-ordination centre at Tingley, near Morley, so that decisions about gritting can be made more quickly and effectively.

Information about the elements is provided by a network of sophisticated weather stations and road sensors across the region.

In addition this winter, live webcam cameras will provide visual images to back the electronic data.

Highways Agency route manager Brian Dobson said: "Keeping the region's roads safe and open is our top priority in winter. This year we have made substantial investments in new technology to help us achieve that aim."

The agency would be working long and hard to keep the important roads open, he added. "But we also ask drivers to be aware of weather forecasts and adjust their driving to suit the conditions," said Mr Dobson.

West Yorkshire will also benefit from the introduction of two new gritters, part of a £1m investment in 13 new gritters working across the region.

The agency's gritting operations in West Yorkshire will concentrate mainly on the M1, M62, M621, M606 and parts of the A1 (T).

The M62 offers a particular challenge, as the trans-Pennine section is Britain's highest motorway.

It has the largest number of gritters on the motorway network because of the severe conditions that can happen.

In severe weather, the M62 actually becomes busier as drivers leave other routes in favour of its gritted carriageways.

Drivers are being advised by the Highways Agency and the Department for Transport's Think road safety campaign to follow key safe driving messages during the winter.

They include allowing extra room to slow down, as it can take 10 times longer to stop in icy conditions.

Experts also say the highest gear possible should be used to avoid wheel spin.

And drivers should manoeuvre gently and avoid harsh braking and acceleration.


* The Highways Agency is responsible for gritting 784 miles of trunk roads and motorways across the Yorkshire and the Humber region.

* There is a total of 26,000 tonnes of salt in storage across the region - 11,000 tonnes in West Yorkshire depots.

* Last year 6,400 tonnes of salt were required to keep West Yorkshire's motorways and trunk roads free from ice and snow.

* About 300 tonnes of salt are required for each precautionary grit.

* A network of 17 weather stations provide regular updates to the Highways Agency area winter desk.