As the temperatures start to drop, Cornwall’s band of salt spreading superheroes are ready for action to help keep residents on the move.
Last year Cormac’s gritters treated more than 55,500 miles of Cornish roads – travelling the equivalent of twice around the earth – and used around 9,800 tonnes of salt – equivalent to the weight of 19 Jumbo Jets.
Salting reduces the freezing point of water. This stops ice forming and reduces the potential for vehicles to skid or be involved in more serious road accidents.
Cormac’s 75 strong crew are on 24-hour standby between November and March, ready to take action based on constantly monitored temperatures, information from 22 road sensors and expert weather forecasts.
This information is used to decide if and when to spread salt on a number of roads before the expected time of freezing.
Sometimes the weather can be difficult to predict, especially here in Cornwall, so crews are also ready to respond to emergency situations at very short notice.
It takes around three hours to treat each of the Council’s 25 salting routes which cover around 1,420 km (883 miles) of the road network and include the most heavily used A and B roads in Cornwall.
Between them, these roads carry around 80% of daily traffic.
Cormac also salt the roads to key sites such as hospitals, minor injury units, ambulance and fire stations, bus and railway stations and secondary schools.
Cornwall’s main trunk roads – the A30 to Penzance and the A38 - are the responsibility of National Highways which manages its own winter service.
While Cormac and the Council will be doing everything it can to keep key roads clear during periods of snow and freezing weather, we can all do our bit by clearing ice outside our homes, stocking up on grit for drives and paths, and by keeping an eye on elderly neighbours. There is more information on what we can do on the government website www.gov.uk/clear-snow-road-path-cycleway
At the start of the season crews fill up more than 600 grit bins throughout Cornwall which are managed by town and parish councils to help salt key local footpaths and roads which do not form part of the Council’s salting network.
Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport Richard Williams-Pears said: “Our gritting crews work hard each winter travelling thousands of miles in often treacherous conditions to keep our busiest roads open.
“It isn’t possible to treat every road in Cornwall and drivers should always take particular care at this time of year – don’t assume a road has been treated or is frost free. It can take up to ten times longer to stop in icy conditions.”
Steve Bayley, Cormac’s Highways Network Manager, said: “It’s important to understand that salting does not melt snow and ice instantaneously. The mixture needs time to take effect and sleet, hail and rain can also cause problems with the salt being washed off the road.
“You may not see the gritters but if the weather forecast has indicated sub-zero temperatures, the gritters will have been out, usually in the early hours of the morning.
"Before you set out, check your vehicle, the road conditions and the weather forecast. If conditions are poor, and journeys are not essential, consider waiting until the weather gets better.”
Salt is stored in a number of covered barns based in Cormac’s highways depots throughout Cornwall. We currently have around 15,000 tonnes of salt ready for use this winter stored at seven locations across Cornwall and will replenish these stocks during the winter months if required.
Once again, the Council will be using Twitter (@CornwallCouncil)(@CornwallCouncil) to provide information about disruptions to services. Information on school closures will be posted on the Cornwall Council website.