Getting salted for winter forecast

Published Thursday, 30 November 2017

The snowflakes that fell today were never expected to settle but gritting crews are gearing up to treat 200 miles of main routes overnight as a precaution.

Since the council’s winter service operations started at the beginning of the month, gritters have been out to treat part or all of the 9 priority routes on 7 occasions. Up to now the risk has been hoar frost, but tonight for the first time, ice has appeared as an isolated risk. 

The forecast combination of sub-zero road surface temperature and moisture from dew or light rain presents a risk to road users that has to be addressed. The crews will remain on standby over the remainder of the winter to salt priority routes when icy road surfaces are predicted and tackle snow if needed.

“We are always prepared for the winter season and whilst national attention turns to gritting when there is snow, most of our salting work takes place when icy or frosty road conditions are predicted. It is the road surface temperature that is particularly key, with localised forecasting guiding our work. This work typically takes place at night or in the early hours when roads are quiet and therefore, this important work is not often seen. The work is also timed according to localised weather forecasts, to avoid rain for instance which would simply wash away the salt.” said Councillor William Huntington-Thresher, Executive Councillor for Environment. 

Councillor Huntington-Thresher added, “Whilst the current salting operations target our main routes in the borough, I would like to publicly thank Snow Friends groups across the borough who are ready to clear snow from their local streets should this situation arise. Of course, we are prepared for snow, as we are for the entire winter period and we would encourage residents to be prepared too according to their own personal circumstances. Please keep warm and safe during these cold snaps, taking extra time when walking, riding or driving, ever mindful of the conditions.” 

Salt is routinely used to prevent ice or frost forming. To ensure that this is effective, in periods of more extreme wintry weather, salting needs to take place on a frequent basis. The council’s nine purpose-built gritting vehicles focus salting operations on the main 200 miles of road out of the 500 miles of borough roads and in periods of extreme weather, this is extended to 260 miles, which are then prioritised still further, with snow clearance only taking place on the priority routes. When snow falls, the snow needs to be removed from the road, often with a squeegee or snow plough, and then salt is applied. In addition to snow clearance on roads included as a priority route, snow is also cleared from pavements in areas of high pedestrian footfall, including town centre locations and approaches to transport interchanges.

Information about gritting routes and other related information, including information about when salting is due to take place is available on the council’s website at


Editor's notes

  • The A21 and part of the A232 (West Wickham to Locksbottom) are maintained by Transport for London (TfL). Consequently, TfL are responsible for gritting these roads, which form part of Red Route.
  • For media enquiries, please contact Andrew Rogers, Communications Executive, on 020 8461 7670 or email