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Gritting questions

General questions on how we grit and maintain roads in Bedford Borough.

Why hasn’t my road been gritted?

On a single gritting run, our crews will cover over 480km of road.  

We can’t 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 most people live within a reasonable distance of a salted route.

What roads do you grit?

There are maps showing which roads we grit in the Winter Gritting Plan, available at www.bedford.gov.uk/winterupdates

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, from three weather forecast updates everyday, and satellite imagery software.

All of this information predicts road temperatures and whether it will snow, and what time these things are expected happen. Our officers use all this information to decide whether to go out gritting and when.

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 www.bedford.gov.uk/winterupdates or following us on Twitter at @bedfordtweets and @grittertweets

How do you grit the roads?

We use 10mm crushed rock salt to melt ice or stop t it from forming on the roads during winter and this is spread onto the road using purpose-built gritters. The gritters can also have a snowplough fitted when needed.

For the salt to work, it has to be put on the road before the road gets icy or snow starts to fall. If it snows for a long period of time the snow will stick onto a road, even if we have already gritted it.

We try to avoid gritting the road during rush hour times 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 grit (also called salt) work?

The salt doesn’t directly melt snow. It has to be spread before the snow falls and over time the traffic will then work it into the road surface. If snow then falls or road temperatures drop it will mix with the salt to create a saline solution which doesn’t freeze as quickly as water. This reduces the build-up of snow, and stops ice forming.

But if it snows for a long time or very heavily, it can fall faster than the salt can mix with the snow so snow might build-up. We would then use snow ploughs to get the roads clear- this is made easier by the salt too, as it helps stop snow freezing onto the road.

How can road users help?

Most importantly- drive with care, especially during winter weather. There can be tell-tale signs that the roads might be slippery; frost on the car or icy puddles. Accelerate and brake more gently when in wet or icy conditions and brake before reaching a bend, not on it.

Keep an eye out for any weather warnings from the Met Office, and if the weather is forecast to be really severe think about whether your journey is really necessary.

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 that would make it easier to cope with snow like heated runways, fancier snow ploughs, would be extremely expensive and massively under used.

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?

Why do you only grit certain pavements?

Gritting pavements is extremely labour intensive and time-consuming. In snowy conditions we focus on pavements with higher numbers of pedestrians, such as in the town centre.

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

There is a salt bin on my road, when can I use it?

We provide salt bins (grit bins) for the public to help keep the roads and pavements clear. These are generally at bends or hills where the risk of slipping on ice is greater.
It is not intended for use on private drives and paths.

If you live in certain areas refilling a salt bin will be the responsibility of the Parish Council.

To request a salt bin refill, please contact the Highways Helpdesk, on Highways.helpdesk@bedford.gov.uk or telephone 01234 718003.

Do you have enough salt stockpiled for winter?

Yes, we have over 3700 tonnes in stock and continually restock salt throughout the winter.

I’ve heard it can be too cold to grit, is that true?

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