The end of this year is looking rather different than we are used to, however Transport for Buckinghamshire’s (TfB) winter plan is still very much the same, to keep Buckinghamshire’s highways safe, no matter the conditions.
Buckinghamshire has over 3,000km of road network and not all of it will be gritted during the winter season, as limited resources available to TfB requires them to focus the service on 25 pre-selected priority routes that are required to keep the general traffic moving. The depots across the county have a combined total of 10,500 tonnes of salt, this includes an emergency supply held in Saunderton.
The decisions on whether to send out the gritters are made daily, based on local weather forecasts and road temperatures, rather than air temperatures. The readings are provided by monitoring stations around the county, with daily weather forecasts received showing the predicted ground temperature and dew point. The dew point is the point where air has cooled to a degree that it can no longer hold moisture. If the ground temperature is forecast to drop to zero, ice would be expected to occur on untreated roads. The gritters are likely to be sent out whenever road temperatures are forecast to fall below +0.5°c and ice is expected to form. The decision is not taken lightly as each run uses approximately between 65 and 85 tonnes of rock salt.
As well as the technical reports being a factor in the decision making, the experience and teamwork of TfB operatives also play a big role in deciding when to send the gritters out. Once the decision has been made, an update will be provided on TfB’s twitter pages, @TwitGritter and @tfbalerts as per previous years. The fluffy animal photos posted with the updates on @tfbalerts have proved to be a big hit with the public and generally looked forward to by the followers of the page.
There is never any guarantee that the roads will be completely clear of ice or snow, due to several factors such as a late change in forecast, or if the teams must wait for rain to clear before gritting as it cannot be applied during wet weather due to the risk it could be washed away. In severe cold weather, salt becomes less effective, and below -8°c even salt will not prevent ice from forming.
The winter service is not due to start until October however gritting crews have already been out for their pre-winter training, providing re-fresher training to current staff and training new operatives. Before the gritting season starts officially, all the vehicles will be thoroughly serviced, and inspected, and the drivers will re-familiarise themselves with the machines and ensure the equipment is working correctly during the winter parade held on Saturday 5th October 2020.
Transport Cabinet Member, Nick Naylor, said:
‘I am incredibly proud of the hard work demonstrated by TfB during this strange year and even more so with their impeccable planning, ready to keep the county safe during the inevitable cold snap. Without their dedication, travelling around Bucks during those frosty winter months would be near impossible and we need to keep those roads clear for our key workers. Thank you to all at TfB.’