Column by Councillor Paul West, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Ipswich, operational highways and flooding.
Despite experiencing what feels like the mildest winters we have had in very long time, our highways teams have been carefully planning our winter gritting operation for months to ensure we are prepared for whatever the weather throws our way.
On Sunday evening, 36 gritters including the public-named Father Gritmas, Gritty Gritty Bang Bang and Spread Sheeran went on their first run of the season, a county-wide treatment of priority 1 roads which took place as the road surface temperatures were forecast to drop below 0°C.
The gritting treatment of our roads in Suffolk is vital to ensure people can continue to travel and do so safely during the wintry weather. During the 2021/2022 winter season, Suffolk used around 9,388 tonnes of salt to treat a total distance of 129,367 miles – which equates to travelling the circumference of Earth over five times! Suffolk Highways currently has a stock of around 24,000 tonnes of salt across the county for the season ahead and is well prepared for any further drop in temperatures.
Our highway teams are responsible for gritting 36 Priority 1 (P1) routes, which amounts to around 1,259 miles, including all A and B roads, roads to fire stations, hospitals, main bus routes and rail stations. They also have 34 Priority 2 (P2) routes, which amounts to around 843 miles of the network, this includes other bus routes, roads leading to rural villages and access to schools. The P1 routes are completed when road surface temperatures are forecast to drop below 1°C and P2 routes are carried out when the forecast predicts there to be a longer period of hazardous conditions.
This entire operation is one which requires extremely careful pre-planning and running throughout, every single decision to grit or not is based upon forecasted road surface temperatures, whilst also considering the impact of other factors, such as wind and heavy rain.
But gritting the priority network isn’t all that the teams do to prepare our county for wintry weather; Suffolk Highways has also refilled the 2,100 grit bins across the county at registered locations, such as the bottom of hills, or on junctions of minor roads. Grit bins are owned by parish and town councils and to ensure that the contents of grit bins are used to make roads safer, our communities are encouraged to monitor how and where the grit is used and if more is required to contact Suffolk Highways.
Suffolk’s residents can also do their part to support us with our gritting efforts by parking considerately and leaving enough room so that our vehicles can grit the road – if we can’t fit, we can’t grit!
Anyone who would like to know when and where we are gritting over the coming months, all gritting activities will be posted to Suffolk Highways’ Twitter and Facebook accounts – so I encourage you to give us a follow and keep abreast of all our teams movements this winter season.
To find out more about which roads are gritted, how we deal with the network in the event of snow, or grit bins, please visit: www.suffolk.gov.uk/gritting.
Suffolk Highways’ winter gritting efforts forms part of the county council’s wider ‘Winter Matters’ campaign, to provide Suffolk’s residents with tips and advice on how to help look after their money, health, wellbeing and safety during the colder months. More information can be found by visiting www.suffolk.gov.uk/wintermatters.