Winter's Secret Friend - Darren
Meet Darren Weston......you may not know this but Darren is a secret friend to all visitors and road users within Rhondda Cynon Taf.
Darren is the man in the gritting van that’s out and about 24/7 making sure our roads are safe when Jack Frost pays the County Borough a visit.
Darren Weston, 37 from Cwmdare, has been keeping residents and motorists safe for over 4 years, since being made redundant from a local company. Darren was delighted to take up this role as a Streetcare Operative as he is now using his skills to make a difference and keep the County Borough safe and moving.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council boasts an Out of Hours 24/7 Response Team which Darren is part of. The dedicated workforce declares war on winter and lots more while residents sleep!
Darren and the team are ready for action as the Council currently boasts 20 purpose built gritting vehicles that are deployed across the County Borough, driven by Darren and the rest of the winter maintenance teams during snow and icy conditions to keep residents moving in inclement weather. The team maintains 1250km of carriageways and undertakes pro-active winter service between the core period of October 1st and April 30th.
In a single run of the Precautionary Salting Network (i.e. priority routes), staff cover a length of 267 miles – that’s the equivalent of travelling from Aberdare to Lake Windermere! Between 50 and 70 tonnes of salt is spread per run during this time (depending on the weather forecast).
Darren currently drives a multi-purpose gritting vehicle, however in order to get to work and this vehicle, Darren has to tackle the same conditions as all other motorists, often driving through snow and ice to get to the depot to start his night shift at 2am. When the Maerdy mountain road is closed for the safety of motorists, Darren too has to travel around to get to work.
You could say Darren is from a family of out of hour’s heroes as his wife Ceri works as an NHS call handler. They have three beautiful girls aged 11, 8 and 6.
Darren said: “I love my job, everyday is different and knowing that what I do helps people makes the cold late nights/early mornings worthwhile. My wife worries when I’m out and about in all sorts of weather conditions, but she knows it’s something that has to be done. I don’t like leaving my girls in the middle of the night, but they too know that daddy has an important job to do – I know they are proud of what I do.
“During the snowfall of January 2013 myself and a few of the boys cleared a residential area for a patient to get to a vital medical appointment, it was gratifying to know that she was able to get there because we were there to help – that’s why you do it! We do get snowballs thrown at us aswell though, people overtaking the vehicles, heading on to untreated roads at high speeds and it can be challenging when people have parked dangerously preventing gritters from getting through – but overall it’s a great job despite the 4pm till 7.30am call out.
“I’ve worked the last four Christmases and I will be working this year again – I will be driving around for Christmas making sure our roads are as safe as possible for residents.”
To help the teams, new technology is shortly being installed in the vehicles that will help them to navigate around the routes, this new machine will also automatically turn salt on and off, resulting is less wastage.
Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, who also has responsibility for Highways, Cllr Andrew Morgan, said: “It’s thanks to the dedicated work of people like Darren that residents and motorists are able to safely travel around the County Borough during the winter months. They work 24/7 often whilst the rest of us are asleep in bed. It’s important that we support the work they do and be thankful that our staff are out there doing their very best to keep our roads safe in often treacherous conditions.”
“At any time, when the conditions require it, there are approximately 10 gritting vehicles out across the County Borough through the night with all 20 vehicles deployed during heavy snowfall.
“The gritting vehicles have been built to include the latest technology in salt distribution and are fitted with trackers and salt monitoring systems, which allow the Council to programme the vehicles accurately, depending on the route and weather conditions.
“This results in a more effective and efficient use of the salt supplies, reducing costs and the environmental impact that the salt has on our County Borough.”
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For further information on Highways Winter Maintenance plans visit www.rctcbc.gov.uk or to report an issue out of hours call 01443 425001.