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Gritting Roads - Winter Maintenance Service
The council provides a winter highways service to keep the traffic moving and to minimise delays and accidents during servere winter weather. Your safety and keeping the city moving is our priority.
The service operates from 1 November until the end of March, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and includes salt gritting in advance of ice or snow, snow ploughing, pavement clearing and the provision of salt/grit bins.
Winter weather conditions
As well as snow, we deal with:
Ice - occurs when conditions are frosty and wet.
Hoar Frost - is formed from white ice crystals. We only deal with this when it forms on roads making them slippery. This shouldn't be confused with low-level frost, such as the white frost that appears on car roofs in the mornings.
Freezing Rain - is rain which freezes as soon as it hits the road surface. Luckily this is rare, but difficult to treat.
What the council does
Our team of Winter Duty Managers in the Highways section use the latest technology in weather forecasting/prediction to decide what is required to protect road users during cold weather. These managers are on standby 24/7 including out of office hours, at weekends and during holiday periods. We will assess the weather forecast for a 24-hour period combined with local road temperature sensor data information in order to decide what action is necessary. Our main priority is to keep major routes treated and passable. These are generally all 'A' roads, most 'B' roads and other roads of local importance, eg bus routes. A total of 156 miles of main routes around the city get treated when weather conditions require it - see our gritting route map for further details.
During periods of prolonged heavy snowfall, pavements are cleared in priority order - main shopping areas and pedestrian routes first, followed by other important pavements and local shopping areas. This work will only be undertaken after the main carriageway routes have been cleared, due to resources.
What do other agencies do?
The Highways Agency is responsible for treating national routes including the A23, M23 and A27. They can be contacted on 0845 600 0414.
What area does the Highways Authority Cover? - The Brighton By Pass, A23 north of the A27 Junction.
What area does East Sussex County Council cover? - Ditchling, Falmer and Saltdean borders.
What area does West Sussex County Council cover? - Fishersgate border and Devils Dyke border.
What you can do to help - shovel, sweep and salt
In heavy snowfall, the best thing to do is to shovel, sweep, and salt.
Firstly, particularly if the snow is deep, and you’ve got a shovel, try to shovel it out of the way, into the gutter, or somewhere it won’t cause a trip hazard. You can then sweep away the remaining residue, and apply salt onto the pavement.
It’s worth bearing in mind that what we put in our grit bins is a mixture of salt and grit or pure grit during snowfall, but ordinary salt will usually work just as well, especially if the snow is cleared. All you need is household table salt, and really you don’t need that much: usually one tablespoon will do a square metre. So you can use it sparingly. Grit can also work to give traction on icy surfaces.
Finally, if you are clearing snow, please don’t use any water – boiling or otherwise. The problem with the water is that it can very quickly re-freeze, and leave an icy patch. The same is true for clearing you car windscreens; obviously water can leave icy patches on the road.
Salt/grit mix can be used from over 400 locally placed Salt/Grit mix bins to apply to roads and pavements if necessary, this is best spread in a thin even layer. Salt/grit mix bins are often on steep road junctions or hills and not usually placed on major salting routes.
- Go to our map of grit bins in the city , there are also options to show grit bins in housing estates, and our gritting routes too..
- Download an A to Z list of the grit bins in the city (PDF 136kb).
- The government advise that there's no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your home or from public spaces. It's unlikely you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you have cleared it carefully. Follow the snow code when clearing snow and ice safely. Further information is available form the GOV.UK website.
Please remember to drive with caution during freezing weather. The Highway Code makes it clear that drivers should always drive according to the weather conditions. Before setting out on a wintery day you should:
- consider whether your journey is absolutely necessary
- if it is, check the local and national weather forecasts
- if driving, listen to your local or national radio stations for travel news
- even if roads have been gritted, do not assume they are free from ice and frost.
Before setting off on a journey make sure you have
- Ice scraper and de-icer
- Warm clothes and a blanket
- First aid kit
- Torch and spare batteries
- Reflective warning sign
- Jump leads
- Food and a warm drink in a thermos flask
- Clear the snow from the bottom of your shoes and from the outside of your car.
- Remember it can take up to 10 times longer to stop in snow and ice
- Make gentle manoeuvres to remain in control
- Select second gear when pulling away to avoid wheel spin
- If hill climbing, try and avoid stopping on the hill. Try and leave lots of distance between you and the car in front. Try to keep at a constant speed and try to select the best gear before you get to the hill.
- When driving downhill, use engine braking by selecting lower gears. Leave plenty of room between you and the car in front.
- When using the brakes, use them gently. If you start to skid, take you foot off the brakes and reapply.
Please remember that we are not able to salt all roads or clear all pavements.
When there are slippery and icy conditions it is vital to recognise the hazards of walking on these surfaces.
- Don’t wear shoes with smooth surfaces. Try putting stretch socks over your shoes to aid grip. You can also try spiked over-shoes, available from catalogues and via the internet.
- Be aware of the surface you are walking on. Don’t try and run for a bus or run to cross a street.
- Use your arms to keep you balanced. Don’t put your hands in your pockets when walking and avoid carrying heavy loads which could imbalance you.
- Try and remove as much snow as possible from the bottom of your shoes as you are walking.
- Walk “small”. Avoid a tall, erect marching walk.
- Just because a path has been cleared, do not assume it is free from ice and won’t be slippery.
- Assume all wet and dark areas on pavement are slippery and icy.
- Be careful when getting in and out of vehicles. Use the vehicle as support when getting in and out.
- Try and walk on grassed areas where possible as this gives better traction.
- Point your feet out slightly. Spreading your feet like this will increase your centre of gravity. Extend your arms to maintain balance and take short steps.
- If you are going to fall, try and fall on your side. Avoid falling on your knees, spine or trying to stop your fall by putting your arm out.
- If falling, try and relax your muscles. You will injure yourself less if you are relaxed.
- Watch where you are stepping and go slowly!!!!
Frequently asked questions
Why are salted roads sometimes still icy?
Despite the high level of service provided, no guarantee can be given that treated roads will always be completely clear of ice or snow.
This can be for various reasons.
- In heavy snowfall, salt treatments are only really effective on roads with heavy traffic.
- It takes time for the salt to become effective after roads are salted
- Rain and running water can wash salt off roads leaving them prone to re-icing.
- In severe cold weather (below –5°C) salt will not prevent roads from icing.
- If freezing conditions follows rain, salting will normally start after the rain has stopped to avoid salt being washed away. Temperatures may fall by as much as 5°C per hour and the wet roads may well freeze before the gritter has been able to salt them.
- Dawn frost occurs on dry roads where early morning dew condenses on cold road surfaces and freezes on impact. It is impossible to forecast with any accuracy where and when this may happen.
- When rain turns to snow during the rush hours, early salting is washed away and gritters are unable make progress due to traffic congestion.
- There may be water on the highway due to a number of reasons. These could include a water mains leak or vehicles being washed and screens having water poured over them to melt the ice. These quantities of water will result in ice forming if the road surface temperature is below zero degrees. The council will treat major water leaks as soon as it is made aware but this obviously takes time after receiving reports.
- Over a season, weather forecasts are approximately 90 percent accurate. In most winters, this means that there are several days when a road frost is not forecast but will still occur
Treated roads can still therefore have icy patches and drivers should remain vigilant and aware of the need to drive with due care at all times, especially when road frosts or freezing temperatures follow rain.
Grit or Salt?
Although most of us call it gritting there is in fact no grit involved in precautionary treatment ( Precautionary treatment is where we treat the roads in advance of frost, ice or snow). What we spread on the roads is rock salt taken from an underground mine in Cleveland.
It is more or less the same as the rock salt you would grind into your food, but of a size and composition for road use.
Water freezes at 0°C, but salt stops water from freezing until -6°C to -8°C. This means it helps the ice and snow to melt.
Grit ( or sharp sand) is used as post treatment on its own or in a mix with salt; Post treatment is where we treat the roads during or after severe ice or snow. The grit aids the breakdown of compacted ice and snow.
What does salting the roads do?
We spread salt onto the road as this works best when it goes into a solution. We rely on the tyres of cars passing over the top of it to crush the salt onto the road. This then forms a solution with a higher de-icing capability.
Salt has the potential to melt snow at temperatures as low as -20° C. but is not a very efficient treatment in extreme cold weather, salt starts to become less effective at - 5°C and almost ineffective at lower temperatures. As a result, it's use becomes practically, economically and environmentally difficult. In extremely low temperatures, or heavy snowfall, a mix of salt and grit may be used to aid traction and to breakdown compacted layers of snow and ice. Ploughing is also used but this cannot clear away all of the snow (e.g. speed humps).
When and how do you salt the roads?We salt the roads when we are expecting ice or snow to prevent icy conditions. Each route is planned to achieve maximum of three and a half hour response time from leaving the depot to completing the route prior to ice forming.
Which areas of the city are salted?
Salting depends on how severe the weather conditions are. It may be necessary to salt the coldest areas only, or alternatively to salt all main routes. Under severe conditions resources are focused according to identified gritting routes. Decisions are based on the following priorities:
- primary roads (all 'A' roads), hospital, ambulance and other emergency service areas
- the majority of 'B' roads
- other important carriageways
- Bus routes
It is our policy to work with the Police in closing roads if:
- roads become impassable
- road conditions become hazardous
However we do not generally tend to close roads during winter weather. This is because not all roads are treated and because in heavy snowfall even treated roads may still have ice and snow on them. it would not be feasable to close all these roads. Motorists are advised to drive with caution on all city roads during cold winter weather.
Why don't you salt the pavements?
We have over 1,200 km of pavement in the city. Most pavements are too narrow to be salted by machine. We do, however, place salt/grit bins at locations across the city for anyone to make use of and we will clear snow away after prolonged heavy snowfall (in order of priority).
As with roads, salting pavements is only effective if there is heavy footfall to help with the treatment work, so we clear most pavements only after snowfall.
Pavement clearance is a lengthy labour-intensive task by hand spreading, so operationally and practically this work requires a high level of resources, by which time the ice or snow may have melted of its own accord. Therefore the Duty Manager must decide on priorities and when the snow may be likely to clear naturally due to improved weather conditions. In heavy and continual snowfall, clearance may need to wait until it stops because all efforts would be immediately covered over again.
What are salt/grit bins for?Salt bins are provided at over 400 locations in the city, often on steep road junctions or hills. They are not usually placed on major salting routes. They are there for anyone to make use of in icy weather.
How do I ask for a grit bin to be refilled?
Please complete our online application for a salt/grit bin to be refilled, relocated or removed or e-mail email@example.com.
Can I have a salt/grit bin?
As we have over 400 gritbins installed in the city, no more gritbins will be installed on the highway. This is because it would take far to long to fill them quickly during extreme weather and with finite resources we cannot keep expanding the number of gritbins that we then need to service.
additional grit/salt mix will be placed in strategic locations across Brighton and Hove at the discretion of the winter duty manager and as resources allow.
Please click on this link Bulk_salt-grit_drops.pdf [PDF 60kb]
Compared to some other authorities, we supply a high quantity of salt/gritbins for the public in what is a relatively small geographical area. This is because we recognise that Brighton And Hove is a mainly urban area built on hills. However provision of grit bins needs to be balanced against the capability to refill in a reasonable time scale, as well as available resources such as salt and grit.
What can I do to help?
You can apply table salt to paths and driveways. A tablespoon of salt every square metre is all that is required for frosty and icy conditions.
Remember, in snow conditions you can shovel, sweep and salt.
How to contact us;
For queries concerning Winter Maintenance Services:
Phone: (01273) 292929
Write to: Winter Maintenance, Victoria Road Housing Office, Portslade, BN41 1YF