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Winter maintenance and gritting FAQ's


Q: Where do we grit?

These include principal roads, classified roads, important access roads and some (not all) bus routes. Our routes are designed to cover critical infrastructure such as the hospitals, fire and police stations, major food distribution centres, the power station, prison, city centre car parks and both the railway and bus station.

Pedestrianised areas and footways around the city centre will also be treated under certain weather conditions as are most subways and footbridges across the city.

In prolonged periods of snow and ice other roads and footways may be treated once the priority gritting routes are clear and the contractor's resources are available.

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Q: How can I find out exactly which roads are gritted?

The precautionary road gritting routes can be found and viewed on Peterborough City Council’s website.

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Q: How long does it take to grit the precautionary network?

The ‘Priority’ network that includes Peterborough’s Parkway system must be completed within 2 hours of the instructed time of commencement by the Winter Service Duty Officer. Other lower priority routes are normally completed within 3 hours of the commencement time.

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Q: Why do I rarely see a gritter on Peterborough’s roads?

Gritting usually takes place late at night or very early in the morning and is timed to ensure the whole network is treated before road surface temperatures fall below zero. As a rule the latest we can begin treatments of the precautionary network to ensure full coverage before rush hour is 04.00Hrs – this would mean drivers would have been in the depot preparing their vehicle and loading from 03.00Hrs.

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Q: Why aren’t all roads gritted?

We can’t grit Peterborough’s entire 948km road network because of the time it would take and the cost involved. Our five gritting routes cover 438km or 46% of the total road network. This coverage is proportionately higher than most of our neighbouring authorities.

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Q: Who grits the trunk roads in and around the city?

Trunk roads are not the responsibility of the City Council. These roads are:

  • the A47 (east of Wansford and including Soke Parkway)
  • the A1 and A1M

They are treated by other contractors working for the Highways Agency.

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Q: How can I find out when the network will be treated?

Peterborough Highway Services will be posting its winter service treatments on Twitter as and when the decisions are made by the Winter Service Duty Officer.

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Q: Who makes the decision to grit the roads and how?

Throughout the winter season, between the 1 October and 30 April, Peterborough Highway Services operates a winter service duty rota that provides 24/7 cover to monitor weather conditions and make appropriate decisions.

Officers are trained to interpret information provided by a specialist winter weather forecasting bureau that provides data throughout the winter season. The forecast, received on a daily basis, gives predictions of the possibility of freezing road temperatures, snow etc, and the time those conditions may occur. Other live data is received from weather stations in the Peterborough area including air and road temperatures, rainfall and road moisture, cloud cover and wind direction all of which is monitored 24 hours a day during the winter maintenance season.

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Q: When do we treat the roads?

Treatments are considered by the Winter Service Duty Officer when road surface temperatures (RST's) are forecast to fall below 1 ºC however the final decision as to the amount of salt spread by our gritters and treatment timing is dependant upon the specific forecast weather conditions, road surface conditions and other factors. For example more salt is spread when the forecast RST is minus six (-6 ºC) than it is at minus one (-1 ºC).

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Q: How do we grit the roads?

We use 6mm crushed rock salt to melt ice or prevent it from forming on the roads during winter and this is spread onto the road using five purpose-built gritters. The spreaders at the rear of the gritters are designed to give an even distribution of salt across the road and spread the salt at a controlled rate. The gritting vehicles also have fittings which enable a snowplough to be fitted when needed.

Salt must be spread onto the road surface before the road becomes icy or snow starts to fall and this is known as precautionary salting. We aim for the gritters to set off at least 3 hours before sub zero temperatures or snowy weather is forecast to arrive.

Every effort is made to avoid the need to treat the network during peak traffic periods as the gritters can become delayed in traffic and can get stuck along with the cars, buses and lorries they are trying to help. In these cases treatments can be brought forward or deferred as appropriate to the details of the forecast.

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Q: Where do we get salt from?

Peterborough City Council uses salt from Cleveland Potash Ltd in North Yorkshire. The salt is applied to the road using a pre-wet system that involves the addition of brine to the dry salt at the point of spreading. The advantages of this system is that the salt goes into solution more quickly and hence becomes effective quicker than dry salt. The addition of brine also reduces salt ‘bounce’ and minimises the amount of salt removed from the road by the draught of the spreading vehicle, road traffic or strong cross winds. In addition to the economic benefits associated with pre-wet treatments it is better for the environment too using less salt and ensuring salt stays on the surface it is spread onto.

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Q: Can I ask for a road to be added to the precautionary gritting network?

The schedule of treated roads has been developed over a number of years and is reviewed annually. Whilst it is unlikely that any additional roads will be added to our schedules if you feel that you have an exceptional case then you should contact your Ward or Parish Councillor.

Any requests for additional roads will be considered during the end of season review: No routes can be added to the schedule during the current winter season.

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Q: What happens when snow is on its way?

When snow is forecast salt is spread on the roads to slow the rate of snow settling however much more salt is needed than when spreading salt to prevent ice forming. Salt alone has very little effect on snow once snow has started to build up on the roads and there is little anyone can do until it becomes deep enough to plough (about 25mm or 1 inch). The actions of ploughing, spreading salt and vehicles running on the snow will all help to clear the roads.

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Q: My road is very icy - can you send someone immediately to salt it?

We will record and consider your request, although it will be subject to route priority, prevailing conditions and available resources.

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Q: How can road users help?

There is clearly a responsibility on every one of us to drive with care, especially during winter weather. You may be travelling on a road that is not part of a main gritting route or you may be on a road before it has been treated. If this is the case, slow down.

Salt spreading does not make roads completely safe; a common misconception is that rock salt will immediately disperse ice and snow and that the roads are then safe to use normally. This is not the case and considerable traffic flows are needed to work the salt into the road surface for it to be totally effective. This takes time to achieve.

The Met Office issues regular forecasts and each night on TV and radio, warnings may be given of likely adverse road conditions - Pay attention to any warnings and set your alarm earlier to allow more time for your journey. If the weather is forecast to be really severe think about whether your journey is really necessary.

Watch out for tell tale signs, like frost on the car and icy puddles they mean that the roads may be slippery. Watch out for shady places or areas beneath overhanging trees as sudden changes in surface condition can easily occur.

Wait for your windscreen to clear before driving off an icy screen is no better than driving in thick fog! Accelerate and brake more gently when in wet or icy conditions and brake before reaching a bend, not on it.

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Q: How does salt work?

Salt is used to prevent ice forming; it does this by reducing the freezing point of moisture already on the road surface. The efficiency of salt becomes less as road temperatures fall towards minus 7 ºC and below minus 10 ºC salting is almost ineffective.

Salt is not very effective when spread on top of ice and snow but becomes more effective when traffic has crushed and circulated the salt over the road surface. During extended periods of heavy snow abrasive material such as sharp sand can be mixed with the salt to help provide traction and break down compacted snow and ice.

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Q: Why do we only grit footways in the city centre?

Widespread footway gritting is labour intensive and is not automatically done. It takes considerable time and ice/frost lasting only for short periods could not be treated before temperatures rise enough to melt naturally. Only where persistent snow or ice appears do we endeavour to grit other footways on a reactive basis.

Peterborough City Council salts footways in the main shopping and routes to city centre car parks where there are higher volumes of pedestrians.

With well over a thousand kilometres of footways in Peterborough salting every single one is simply not feasible – our efforts have to be concentrated on areas that will benefit the most people.

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Q: Do you provide Grit bins?

There are currently over 100 grit bins around the greater city area, located predominantly in areas that are not on or near the gritting routes. These are restocked at regular intervals during the winter season however if a grit bin needs to be restocked please let us know by contacting Peterborough Direct (01733) 747474.

As grit bins are subject to vandalism and misuse they are only provided if there is a genuine need. Requests for the provision of grit bins at new locations are assessed against various criteria and only provided if full justification can be shown.

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Q: If I spread salt from a grit bin, am I liable if someone has an accident?

Grit bins are provided as a ‘self help’ facility and are placed in locations where difficulties are likely to be experienced by users of the highway. They enable local residents and passing motorists to spread salt on the carriageway or footway within the locality of the bins should they experience difficulties. The salt is replenished by the Council but the spreading of salt by local residents and others is carried out at their own risk.

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Q: Can I have a salt bin for my street?

Requests for the provision of a grit bin are assessed and judged against certain criteria. They are only provided if full justification can be shown.

Requests for grit bins are considered individually. It is important that we allocate new grit bins to areas that that will most benefit the surrounding location. The types of locations we would consider placing a new grit bin would be those with:

  • sharp bends
  • steep gradients
  • potentially dangerous road junctions
  • exposed locations

Salt from grit bins is meant for use on the roads and not on private paths and drives.

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Q: Can a Grit bin be removed?

Often grit bins become the focus of vandalism or the meeting place for youths. If this becomes an unbearable nuisance, a request for the bin to be removed can be made. The agreement of other residents in the area would be needed before the facility is withdrawn.

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Q: Do we supply salt to the public?

The Council cannot undertake to supply private individuals with salt. Local builder’s merchants and other suppliers usually sell rock salt for private use.

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Facts and figures

Rock Salt is generally used by Highway Authorities to prevent the formation of ice on their roads. Rock Salt is the natural solid form of salt, and is mined from seams deep beneath the sea bed. The spreading of Rock Salt on roads is commonly termed as gritting, although neither sand nor crushed rock grit is used in the process.

  • The Council has 5 gritters to which snow ploughs can be attached if required.
  • Peterborough City Council stores 3,500 tonnes of salt at the beginning of the season and replenishes stocks as the season progresses 
  • Approximately 2100 tonnes of salt are spread on the City’s roads during the average winter.
  • 80% of all salt spreading operations take place between 7pm and 10pm and between 3am and 7am.
  • Salt is spread at 10/15 grams per square metre for a frost warning.
  • Salt can be spread at up to 40 grams per square metre for a snow warning.

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