Getting salted for winter forecast

Published Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Around 210 tonnes of salt has been used on the 200 miles of priority routes across the borough in the past three days to help tackle the ice and snow.

The council’s gritting fleet, which is equipped with GPS tracking devices for accuracy, was again called into action over night, with 40 tonnes being used to tackle forecast ice following freezing road conditions.  This was the third consecutive night that all priority routes were salted overnight, with other work also typically taking place in the early morning period as well as at other times, depending on the location.  Salting also took place on pavements in town centre shopping parade areas and outside transport interchanges this morning in response to the freezing temperatures.  

"Our gritting crews are typically among the most prepared in London, with one of the largest salt stocks available for use over the winter period.  We will always be out doing what we can to keep traffic across the borough moving but motorists should remember that even with our extensive gritting programme, not every road will be gritted and the winter weather patterns are rarely straightforward.  The recent snowfall presented a particular challenge because it was preceded by rainfall. Precautionary gritting is futile when rain turns to sleet turns to snow as the rain would simply have washed the salt away. Forecasters have found it very difficult to predict exactly when the change will occur, our drivers cannot start their routes until the snow starts falling onto wet roads.  Drivers must take account of the prevailing conditions as it takes time for the gritters work to mitigate the risk" said Councillor Huntington-Thresher, Executive Councillor for Environment.

Councillor Huntington-Thresher added, “We will always be reliant on accurate weather forecasting and we accept that forecasts will sometimes change and this will obviously then have an impact on our gritting operations.  It is still not too late to become a Snow Friend and I would like to thank Snow Friends for being willing to clear snow from their street should this be needed.”

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 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