29/10/2012 - Permalink

Blog: True grit!

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Keeping Shropshire moving during a cold snap is a full-time job.

With hundreds of miles of roads and thousands of car journeys to be made, someone has to ensure we keep as many roads open as possible. There’s a host of people working, sometimes through the night, to help you get where you need to be, even when the mercury plummets.

Shropshire Council and its contractors keep a weather-eye on temperatures throughout the winter – but how do we decide when to send the gritters out?

Firstly, we need reliable information.

We subscribe to weather forecasting services from Vaisala Ltd.

From October to April we get:

  • A morning summary.
  • A 24 hour forecast each morning.
  • A 5 day forecast each afternoon.
  • Ice prediction graphs each afternoon.
  • Regular updates.

We also subscribe to a 24-hour consultancy service from Meteogroup UK.

All that data helps us make informed decisions, but we also have inspectors on call that can go out and see the situation on the ground. These are officers with years of experience between them who know when to react to local conditions and deploy more resources as required.

So what do we do? When all the indicators are in place, we’ll send the trucks out from our five depots for what we call ‘pre-salting’. This is a preventative measure to stop ice forming on the roads.

In extreme circumstances, we’re aiming to remove ice that’s already formed, and that’s called post-salting.

And, when it’s really bad, we deploy the snow ploughs.

Where do we grit? Keeping the roads clear is an expensive business so we have to prioritise.

We have what’s known as the ‘defined network’; that’s all of the A and B roads in Shropshire and localised high-risk sections of other roads. All in all that’s around 28% of the total road network in Shropshire.

So, when it’s icy, extra care should be taken on rural and urban side roads, town centre footways and cycleways as these will only be treated in prolonged sub-zero conditions and when ice builds up, if resources allow.

You can get full details of the Winter Service policy and gritting routes on Shropshire Council’s website by clicking here, together with some useful self-help tips for clearing snow and ice from pavements.

We’ve also teamed up with councils across the West Midlands to provide a regional picture of who’s gritting and when. If you’re on Twitter, you can get Twitter Gritter alerts by following #wmgrit.