With cold weather finally upon us, the council and its highways partner Balfour Beatty Living Places are prepared for whatever the weather can throw at Southampton.
Balfour Beatty have a fleet of winter maintenance vehicles primed and ready to grit the roads and plough snow should it arrive , with 800 tonnes of salt in stock and access to 3000 tonnes more if it's needed.
The winter maintenance season starts in November and runs until the end of March. Throughout this period a four man crew and a supervisor are on call 24 hours a day with access to five gritting vehicles and can react quickly to extreme weather conditions.
This winter, the Highways Services Partnership (HSP) has stockpiled 800 tonnes of salt at City Depot. This would be enough for approximately two and a half weeks’ worth were there to be a prolonged period of extreme weather. We also have access to a strategic stockpile of over 11,000 tonnes of salt held by the Balfour Beatty group, in the unlikely event that stocks were to run low.
When it comes to gritting roads, priority is given to the major traffic routes (known as Priority One routes) with the aim of ensuring that major bus routes and access to hospitals are kept safe at all times. The other less critical traffic routes (Priority Two routes) will only be gritted when temperatures remain very low for a number of days in a row with no thaw period. More information on our gritting routes can be found on our gritting and snow clearance pages.
We do not have the resources to carry out pre-gritting on footways and only when we experience extended periods of extreme freezing conditions or snowfall will we divert staff from their normal duties to grit and clear the main footway routes.
As of 13 December last year we have carried out nine gritting runs on our Priority One routes, utilising around 127 tonnes of salt. A decision as to whether to pre-salt is usually taken at lunchtime and the salting normally begins around 7pm, after the worst of the rush hour traffic is over. If there is an overnight snow fall following the pre-salting then we will grit again at 4am with a heavier run of 20 grams per square metre. In the event of heavy snow the salt is mixed with grit to provide improved grip. The movement of passing traffic mixes the salt to form brine which helps to melt the snow.
Daily weather forecasts are received and road conditions monitored to enable us to decide when precautionary salting or other action is required. We have installed three weather stations around the city which allow for accurate prediction of overnight air and road surface temperatures. The stations are located in Lords Hill Way, Portsmouth Road and on Redbridge Flyover, and provide updates every 20 minutes, giving a good indication of the prevailing weather conditions across the city. They provide us with accurate data on actual and predicted air temperature, surface temperature, humidity, and levels of grip. As Southampton tends to develop its own microclimate that can be a degree or two warmer than the surrounding areas, these stations provide vital information on the approaching weather conditions and allow us to plan accordingly and ensure that resources are not wasted.
Residents are advised to take extra care both on foot and by car when we are experiencing icy or snowy weather but should not be put off clearing footways themselves. There is no law stopping people from clearing snow and ice on the footway outside their homes or from public spaces.
You can follow our highways service on Twitter at https://twitter.com/scchighways to find out what gritting is taking place and if there have been any incidents on Southampton’s roads.