'A gritted road is not automatically a safe road' - warning after Bridgwater bus crash

  • Watch Cllr Rigby speak to ITV News West Country

Somerset County Council says there was little it could have done to prevent roads getting saturated with water and freezing over, after a bus overturned in icy conditions near Bridgwater.

At around 6am yesterday morning (17 January), a bus carrying more than 70 Hinkley Point C workers crashed on the A39 near Bridgwater.

No-one died in the crash but 56 people were injured and some were left needing surgery.

It came after Avon and Somerset Police were called about more than 100 road-related incidents the previous evening after temperatures plummeted and conditions on the roads became treacherous.

It prompted questions over how efficient gritting had been on Somerset's roads including the A39.

Somerset County Council's lead member for transport Cllr Mike Rigby told ITV News West Country: "Because of quite how much rain we have had in the last few weeks, the ground is saturated and there is very little we can do about that."

A bus overturned on the A39 early yesterday morning (17 January) Credit: ITV West Country

Cllr Rigby added: "We have a programme of gullying to make sure that the water can clear the road as quickly as possible, but we won't ever keep water completely clear of the road.

"In gritting terms, we gritted that particular piece of road (A39) yesterday evening, it was due for a second pass this morning just after the accident occurred unfortunately.

"We are running double teams at the moment to make sure that we can grit all of the roads that we currently treat across the county. The difficulty is, where you have flowing water the efficacy of the salt that we use is reduced because it gets washed away.

"You're never going to get all the water off the carriageway, not after weeks of rain like this.

"The road was gritted but I think the message to get across to people is that gritting is not a panacea and a gritted road is not automatically a safe road."

Temperatures remained below freezing this morning, meaning rural roads in particular were icy. Somerset County Council is urging drivers to be extremely cautious even on gritted roads.

Cllr Rigby added: "It doesn't mean that the road is automatically safe, so we're asking everyone to drive particularly carefully.

"We have a review of the winter treatment programme every year, we'll have a programme review at the end of this season and anything that needs to be learnt will be fed into that review, and if there is more we can do then we will."