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Gritting FAQs

Why hasn’t my road been gritted?

A typical run covers over 480km of road. It isn’t feasible to grit every road across the Borough – we have to concentrate our efforts on areas where it will benefit the most people.

We will, as far as we can, keep the main roads free of ice and snow at all times to ensure a safe journey for those travelling around the Borough, and we try to ensure that the majority of road users live within a reasonable distance of a salted route.

If it snows for a long period of time, the snow will stick onto a road, even though we may have already gritted it.

What roads do you grit?

There are maps showing which roads we grit in the Winter Gritting Plan, available at 

Where are all the gritters?

Gritting usually takes place late at night or very early in the morning. A typical run takes 5 hours to complete and is timed to ensure that the gritting run is complete before road surface temperatures fall below zero. 

You can find out when our gritting crews are heading out by visiting or following us on twitter at @bedfordtweets and @grittertweets

Who makes the decision to grit the roads and how?

We have a team of professionally qualified officers who collate information gathered by our weather stations across the Borough as well as receiving three weather forecast updates per day. In addition to this the decision makers have access to satellite imagery software that can monitor and predict the movements of weather fronts. This information gives predictions of the possibility of freezing road temperatures, snow etc, and the time those conditions may occur so our officers have as much information as possible to make the decision about when gritting is needed, and the best time for the crews to go out.

How do we grit the roads?

We use 10mm crushed rock salt to melt ice or prevent it from forming on the roads during winter and this is spread onto the road using 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.

In order for the salt to do its job effectively it must be spread onto the road surface before the road becomes icy or snow starts to fall and this is known as precautionary salting.

Every effort is made to avoid the need to treat roads 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.

I’ve seen a gritter that wasn’t spreading salt, why?

If you see a gritter on the road that isn’t spreading salt, it will be travelling to or from the depot. Our gritting crews are given routes to ensure that they can cover as much road as possible without ‘doubling up’, so they do not start spreading salt until they get onto their route.

How does the salt work?

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 as traffic flows are needed to work the salt into the road surface for it to be totally effective. This takes time to achieve.

Salt doesn't directly melt snow. If snow is predicted, salt is spread in advance so when the first snow falls it can start to mix with salt to create a saline solution which can reduce the build-up of snow and prevent the formation of ice.

However in prolonged periods of snowfall the snow can fall at a rate faster than the salt can mix with the snow which means the snow may build-up. Accumulated snow will have to be ploughed away from the roads, but this is made much easier by salt spread in advance of the snowfall as the salt already applied reduces the likelihood of the snow freezing on the surface.

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.

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.

Why do other countries cope so much better?

In the UK, we usually only experience snow a couple of times a year unlike countries such as Canada or those in Scandinavia. This means that investing in the infrastructure and equipment which would make it easier to cope with snow (i.e. heated runways, fancier snow ploughs) – would be extremely expensive and massively under used.

There is no cost benefit in investing millions of pounds to avoid occasional disruption unlike other countries that have much colder and snowier climates.

In other countries, motorists are requested to change their tyres to winter use. Tyres with metal studs fitted to the base of the tyre provide good traction in snow however these would be only of very rare use in the UK.

How can I find out about school or road closures?

Follow us on Twitter @bedfordtweets

Like our Facebook page

Visit our winter updates webpage at and our school closures page at

Why do we only grit certain footpaths?

Widespread footway gritting is extremely labour intensive. It takes considerable time and ice / frost lasting only for short periods could not be treated before temperatures rise enough to melt naturally.

During snow conditions Bedford Borough Council salts footways in the town centre, where there are higher numbers of pedestrians.

Salting every single footway is simply not feasible – our efforts have to be concentrated on areas that will benefit the most people.

Am I liable if I clear the pavement and someone slips?

If someone fell on a path you had cleared it is very unlikely that you would face any legal liability, as long as you are careful, and use common sense to ensure that you do not make the pavement or pathway clearly more dangerous than before.

The Government provides tips on how to best clear snow:

Do you have enough salt stockpiled for winter?

Yes, we have over 3,500 tonnes in stock and continually restock salt throughout the winter. Last year, we used over 5,500 tonnes of salt on our roads.

I’ve heard it can be too cold to grit?

Temperatures would not stop us gritting but if the temperature drops below -6 degrees it is less effective.