Winter Motoring in Wrexham County Borough
It is our aim to safeguard the road user within the County Borough of Wrexham throughout the winter months.
Rocksalt is applied to over 500 kilometres of County Borough and Trunk Road network during a 2 ½ hours period when frost or icy conditions are forecast.
There are 11 priority precautionary gritting routes which covers 40% of the road network of 1140 km's of County Borough maintained roads. The gritting routes are pre-determined utilising criteria such as height above sea level, road classification, road gradients and proximity to schools, bus routes, local industry and shopping areas which are likely to generate high volumes of traffic.
Our objective is to ensure that rocksalt is spread on the highway before the formation of ice. To achieve this a dedicated workforce comprising of 40 qualified drivers operate a fleet of 14 gritting vehicles, which are based centrally within the street scene department. Gritting Operations may be undertaken from one of our three depots based at Chirk, Llay or Wrexham Industrial Estate and spread approximately 4,000 Tonnes of rocksalt onto the County Borough road network during an average winter.
Cycleways and Footways
Footways alongside carriageways and cycleways are not treated following the prediction of frosty condition but consideration is given to them, particularly in heavily pedestrianised shopping areas, when prolonged freezing conditions or snow is experienced and resources are available.
Daily weather forecasts are received throughout the winter period and are specific to Wrexham County Borough. The forecast is provided by MeteoGroup who utilise their experience at weather forecasting combined with information provided by Ice Prediction sensors situated in Wrexham, Bwlchgwyn, Glyn Ceiriog, Wrexham Town Centre and Bangor on Dee to predict the weather for a 24 hour period from 12 noon daily. The weather forecast provided by MeteoGroup forms the basis of our decision making process with regards to gritting actions taken in the interest of road safety over the succeeding 24 hours. Information on the weather forecast and the subsequent action is then distributed to schools, the transport section and other key departments within the council.
The preferred de-icing material utilised by Wrexham County Borough Council is 6mm nominal size rocksalt, which is spread onto the road network at a rate of 10 - 15 grams/m2 prior to the development of frost and ice. This figure is increased to 40 grams/m2 during the onset of snow conditions. Rocksalt is mined from a non-renewable source and, in high concentration can be environmentally unfriendly and in certain situations can damage vegetation. It is therefore important that the material is only used when necessary and in the correct locations.
To effectively remove ice from the road surface the rock salt requires the action of traffic, which assists in the process of breaking down the salt granules into a saline solution. This rapidly melts the ice and prevents further ice forming for several hours.
Salt Bins / Heaps
Salt bins/heaps are located in areas for the use of pedestrians and motorists to teat the public highway only. The council currently maintains in excess of 200 salt bins throughout the County Borough. Salt bins are provided in strategic locations that cannot be accessed by our main gritting vehicles but are subject to being individually assessed against criteria with includes,
- Non Precautionary gritting routes
- Location within the bounds of the public highway
- Benefit to road safety, i.e. areas with steep inclines
- Traffic volumes
- Proximity to schools and locations of public interest
A pro forma to aid assessment is carried out for all new requests for salt bins in accordance with the agreed winter service policy. Community councils may purchase salt bins and rock salt from the council providing that any new salt bins are distinguishable from the Environment Department salt bins and approved location on the public highway.
Supply of rocksalt to the public
During the winter months many requests are received from members of the public for this Authority to provide them with rocksalt for personal use. Unfortunately, our salt stock levels do not cater for random supplies outside of our controlled winter maintenance operations and therefore our policy to not supply rocksalt for personal use has been derived. This ensures that our resources are maintained for use by this Authority to provide the most efficient service to the general public.
When things go wrong!
Meteorology is not an exact science and it is inevitable that conditions materialise that could not be predicted. This could lead to difficulties in the following ways:
- Rain is followed by rapidly clearing skies. The gritting operations can not commence until the rain has stopped (to avoid the salt being washed away). Temperatures may fall by as much as 5oC per hour causing the wet roads to freeze before the salt is applied.
- "Dawn frost" occurs on dry roads when early morning dew develops and freezes on impact with a cold road. It is impossible to forecast with any accuracy when and where it will occur.
- Snowfall during a traffic rush hour. When rain turns to snow which has coincided with the traffic rush hour, early salting cannot take place as the salt would be washed away and gritters cannot make progress due to traffic congestion. The above scenarios are few and far between and this Authority endeavours to safeguard the traffic travelling on its road network irrespective of the conditions experienced.