I have copied below an email sent to all borough councillors from our Head of Highway. I also thought a photo of Millie in the snow last December might brighten up this post.
The Winter Service Plan (link shown here) Winter Service Plan has been approved and is intended for use over the forthcoming winter season; it sets out the 9 gritting routes that will be treated to try to prevent the formation of ice and will be treated as priority during any snowfall. The plan also shows the high amenity footways that will be treated and the locations of grit bins around the borough.
In preparation for this winter we have ensured the salt barn contains 3500 tonnes of road salt. This salt is maintained undercover to preserve its integrity ready to be used on the road network. Our routes cover 560km of the borough’s total road length, this is 56% of all of our roads. There are 260 grit bins filled with a mixture of salt and sand that can be used by residents to help with access on local roads that are not part of the approved gritting network.
Some of the issues that we face when delivering the service that may be useful for you to know:
The Council’s requirement to prevent ice forming on road surfaces is defined in The Highways Act and Railways Act. The code of practice “Well Managed Highway Infrastructure” provides the guidance on how this may be achieved.
Highway authorities are not required to grit all roads; our routes are determined on risk and include the main (strategic) roads and roads with high frequency bus routes during peak times. This needs to be set out in a plan and approved by the Cabinet Member.
Our legal requirement is to ensure that we stick to the approved routes when undertaking treatments. Treatments are undertaken based on the conditions, however, precautionary treatments are normally undertaken at 7:00pm and take two and a half hours to complete. We are not able to undertake treatments to other roads until the approved routes are clear. Due to drivers’ hours restrictions, this may mean, during periods of snow fall, treatments to other roads may not happen until the following day when resources become available.
Please note, it is not possible to clear all footways within the borough during snowfall. To ensure people’s safety, it would be helpful if you can please advise any elderly, vulnerable and less mobile residents to stay indoors during the bad weather until the conditions improve.
There are 267 self-help grit bins placed around the borough, these contain a mixture of grit and salt to aid traction on local roads which are not on an approved gritting route. The bins are filled prior to the season starting and again halfway through the season. The salt mixture is not intended to be used on private drives as it will not melt snow and ice, plus it may also cause staining on driveways if spread too thickly. A handful of salt will cover a square metre. Residents are advised to purchase ice melting products, which are available in most supermarkets, to melt ice and snow as these will perform that function better.
Road salt is used to lower the freezing point of water on the road surface. For salt to work effectively it needs to be in solution and needs to be spread prior to the road surfaces freezing. Spreading salt on frozen surfaces will not melt the ice.
As temperatures fall, salt will become less effective; at -5degrees C it has a limited thawing effect and at -10degrees C it stops working. Should we experience a phenomenon called freezing rain, salt will not prevent it freezing and warnings are normally issued to drivers to not use the roads when this happens.
Treating your own drives and frontages
Often during snowfall there is a misconception that clearing your driveway and/or frontage to your property should not be undertaken as you may become liable for any accident. This is not true. It is recommended that you do clear your drive and footway as long as you are sensible about it; the Department for Transport has a webpage which offers guidance on this, here: https://www.gov.uk/clear-snow-road-path-cycleway
The Council does not advise schools to close; schools may request advice on the expected conditions but the head teacher will decide if the school will close.
Defects on the road surface
During the winter, the number of defects occurring on roads is likely to increase. This is due to the freeze-thaw effect. This is where water gets through cracks in the road surface, freezes and lifts the surface from underneath and then thaws out leaving a delaminated surface. As traffic travels over the section of road it starts to fail, causing a defect to occur. During the winter period an additional crew is utilised to undertake permanent repairs of these defects using a material suitable for the winter conditions.
I hope that this information is helpful. More details can be found on the Council website under gritting FAQS: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Resident/Parking-travel-roads/gritting-and-snow/gritting/Gritting-FAQS