The Met Office has issued an amber warning for snow and ice across parts of the south east this weekend, with sub-zero temperatures expected overnight. As ever, Transport for Buckinghamshire is ready for the cold weather and prepared to keep the roads safe. Here’s the five things you need to know about our winter service:
1. Winter service lasts from October to March every year.
By mid-October every year TfB is ready for winter, and the daily monitoring of road surface temperatures begins. A dedicated winter team receives detailed weather forecast analysis every day, which contains information on air temperature, road surface temperature (which can often be a few degrees lower than air temperature) likelihood of snow and ice, humidity and wind speed. Using the data they are given, the team decides whether or not to salt the roads, and at what time. Winter service generally winds up around late March when spring arrives and temperatures get milder.
2. We name our gritters!TfB has a fleet of 24 gritters, based at four depots countywide, and each of the big yellow machines has a name on their front bonnet. This year we replaced 12 of the fleet, which meant new names needed to be chosen for them. We opened up the decision making process to the public and a judging panel chose the best ones:
Usain Salt and Snow Farah (both based in High Wycombe), Grit ‘n’ Bear It, Walter the Salter, and Grit Expectations (based at Amersham) Gritty Bang Bang (based in Gawcott) and Ice Ice Baby, Salt Disney, Rocky Horror, Snowbot, The Gritter Good, and True Grit (all based in Aylesbury). Thanks to all the members of the public who helped us pick these brilliant names!
|New gritters, Usain Salt and Snow Farah at the High Wycombe TfB Depot|
3. We salt 44% of Buckinghamshire roadsOur primary salting routes cover the most important roads to keep everyone moving, covering 1405km of the county's A and B road network – that’s about 44% of the total network, and is more than many local authorities grit. In times of very severe weather salting will be carried out on secondary routes as well. These include classified roads which are not included in the primary routes, unclassified roads serving communities of 200 dwellings or more and unclassified roads with a gradient of 10% or less. We may also salt cycle ways and footways in main shopping areas and other key pedestrian and cycle facilities. In general, the secondary salting network will be treated after the formation of ice or fall of snow – fortunately we have not had a severe winter in Buckinghamshire in several years. You can view the gritting route map on our winter page.
|An overview of the Buckinghamshire precautionary gritting routes|
4. We have 50 gritter drivers on call every day for six monthsFrom October to March TfB has 50 specially trained gritter drivers on call 24/7 – that includes Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. That’s a Christmas of staying off the booze and potentially abandoning carving the turkey to get out on the roads!
There are roughly two drivers per gritter who rotate gritting duties on an A-B basis; this ensures no driver does two runs in one night, should we need to salt twice in 24 hours. Generally the drivers get given between 4 – 6 hours’ notice if they will need to go out, but they need to be available at 2 hours’ notice should the forecast change suddenly, or another driver become unwell. What’s more, gritting generally takes place in the evening and throughout the night, so the drivers are still carrying out their day jobs in highway maintenance.
5. We store thousands of tonnes of salt across the countyRock salt is used to grit roads - it prevents frost and ice forming and helps to melt ice. TfB has four rock salt barns based across Buckinghamshire in High Wycombe, Amersham, Aylesbury and Buckingham, as well as an emergency reserve of 3000 tonnes of salt near south Bucks, just in case. Each barn holds around 1000 tonnes of salt at a time and is topped up throughout the winter - each full salt run of the county uses up approximately 85 tonnes! Salt requires traffic movement and moisture in the atmosphere to turn it into a de-icing solution. In order for it to work effectively, vehicles need to drive over the salt to grind it into smaller particles and spread it across the road.
|A gritter offloading its leftover salt at the end of a gritting run|
The County Council has a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know this winter - visit www.buckscc.gov.uk/readyforwinter.