Council's gritting team is prepared for peak winter operations

7 January 2020

As Cheshire West and Chester experiences some of the coldest temperatures this winter, the Council’s Highways team has moved up a gear to keep the road network running smoothly.

The Council's Highways Service and its maintenance contractor, Ringway, have been working round the clock to cope with the recent cold weather during the festive season. The fleet of 14 gritting trucks was mobilised 16 times between Christmas Eve and Saturday, 2 January 2021. The fleet has been out 33 times so far this winter, which is slightly above last year.

The fleet keeps 490 miles of roads safe for drivers, using the 6,000 tonnes of rocksalt stored at the Guilden Sutton and Davenham Depots to treat key routes across the borough.

Primary routes are gritted first which include A roads, other main roads and routes used by the emergency services. In periods of continued bad weather secondary routes are sometimes gritted when the primary network is fully treated and if resources are available.

Road surface temperature and whether the road is wet or dry determines what grit treatment is needed – not the air temperature. The grit spread on roads is actually rock salt, which mixes with any moisture to create a saline solution. Saline solutions freeze at a lower temperature than water, so frost and ice doesn’t form on the road. 

On nights where frost or icy conditions are forecast, the fleet will spread salt to prevent ice from forming across 40 percent of the Council's highway network. This is above the 30 to 35 percent suggested under current Government guidance.

All gritters are equipped with GPS tracking to enable accurate monitoring of which roads have been treated.

Duty officers will mobilise the gritting fleet when it is predicted that road surface temperatures are to drop below freezing, allowing time for the salt to be applied to the road.  Salting is normally completed within four hours and usually before 7am. The Highways teams maintain a close relationship with the MeteoGroup, who provide the weather forecasts.

The Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, Councillor Karen Shore said: “I want to pass on my thanks to the entire team who make our gritting operation possible. The crews are on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week - including over Christmas and New Year. That call out could come at any hour of the day or night and they must be ready to respond immediately.

“When the fleet is mobilised it’s important that we grit within a specific time period which is why we target key roads.  We can only grit so much of the network within a timeframe and we must concentrate our efforts on key routes that see the most use.”

During the ongoing pandemic contingencies are in place to ensure the availability of gritter drivers. For example, drivers are now familiar with a couple of ‘extra’ routes in case they need to swap with colleagues.

Salt bins are provided is specific locations for people to use during icy conditions. These are usually residential areas next to shopping areas, part way up hills with a slope over 10% or where there are special circumstances. You can ask for a top up for any current salt bins in your area on the Council’s website. (Under ‘Report or check a highways fault’ – Winter maintenance.) Footpaths and cycleways are gritted if snow or ice is likely to last for over 24 hours and if resources are available. Busy footpaths and ones with special circumstances are gritted first – this year this will include locations around COVID-19 vaccination centres, as well as footpaths in shopping areas, outside hospitals and around schools.

Gritting updates are available via the Council’s Twitter feed -Search for the hashtag - #cwacgrit.

More information about the Council’s winter operations, including gritting routes, is on the Council's website.

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