First major gritting run of winter on national network as temperatures drop

Gritters went out for the first time in many areas over the weekend as temperatures dropped across England.

Gritters went out over the weekend for the first significant operation of this autumn and winter season on motorways and major A-roads as temperatures dipped across the country. 

Leading-edge technology, in-depth forecasting, and work with partners such as the Met Office and MetDesk means National Highways knows precisely where and when to treat roads with salt. 

National Highways, which operates England’s 4,500-mile strategic road network, is urging drivers to take care during the poor weather while also giving gritting teams space to operate. 

Darren Clark, Severe Weather Resilience Manager at National Highways, said:  “We manage a huge roads network nationwide – with over 4,500 miles of motorways and A-roads. 

“Not all roads will need treating on any given day. Gritters may need to go out in some regions if road temperatures fall below +1 degrees C, and if there is a risk of ice forming, but not in other areas if conditions are not as cold. 

“National Highways is committed to treating every road which needs to be treated – whenever it is needed. We are armed with the latest technology, forecasting intelligence and years of experience to help us make informed decisions about where and when we need to spread salt to help keep road users safe in even the most adverse weather conditions.” 

The government-owned company switched over to autumn and winter operations on 1 October, readying teams at 128 depots across the country to keep the country’s busiest roads open amid deteriorating weather. 

This includes monitoring Met Office weather forecasts along with regular road assessments from meteorological experts MetDesk. The roads need gritting when road surface temperatures drop below +1 degrees C. 

National Highways last year completed the assembly of its new £44m two-year investment in a fleet of 252 Romaquip-Volvo gritter vehicles, some of which carried out winter operations last year, and all of which will be involved in salt spreading this season. The investment now means the organisation has around 530 gritter vehicles available this winter. 

Vehicles in its winter gritting fleet can carry up to around 12,000 kg of salt, or 8,400 kg of salt and 3,600 litres of brine at any one time. The Romaquip-Volvo gritting vehicles can spread up to 50mph, encouraging traffic to keep moving more effectively on the roads even when they are being treated. When not treating they can travel up to 56mph. 

However, National Highways is keen for motorists to continue to give gritter vehicles the time and space they need to do their jobs – to keep us all safe when we are travelling on its motorways and A-roads. 

Darren added: “As our gritting teams go out more and more to spread salt on the roads this coming autumn and winter season, our message is simple to all road users: ‘Please be patient and give us the time and space to do what we need to do to keep you safe.” 

Autumn and winter can bring more adverse and severe weather conditions which can affect motorists and these include fog, heavy rain, high winds and gales and ice and snow. 

Along with more than 250 weather stations, National Highways works with independent meteorological experts Metdesk which run from October 1 to April 30 and complement the national Met Office weather forecast, providing a level of granularity and precision about changing road surface temperatures across our road network. This gives it the detailed knowledge determine where and when to salt roads so they remain open and safe for people to use. 

All of the information it gathers helps it to inform road users about current road conditions whatever the weather. It also shares information through channels including its website, third party travel providers including sat nav companies and local radio stations. 


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