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Tuesday, 12 January 2010


I've had a fair few emails and phone calls about gritters over the last three weeks, as you can well imagine.

It's a difficult situation, because we need to ensure that roads are treated as swiftly as possible to keep them safe and keep everything moving. However, we only have a finite capacity and unless everyone wants to double their council tax in order to have extra gritters sitting around doing nothing for ten years until the next snap comes along, we all have to deal with the fact that not all of the roads will get done. The council is very careful to prioritise the roads that are important and on the whole I think they've done a good job.

However there are some other complications as well. Salt only works well down to -5, at which point it is normally better to leave the snow on the road. Salting roads if the temperature is due to drop can be dangerous, as rather than having snow on the road you'll end up with black ice as the snow melts and then refreezes.

The other problem is that snowfall washes the salt away. Roads are designed to channel water down the drain, and as the salt melts falling snow it will get washed away with the water. Therefore we have to keep gritting - which is why over the last few weeks we've picked the important roads and just kept going at them time and again.

But many people and are still not happy, and every other day someone is saying to me "It's not like this in "France/Sweden/Canada" when it snows.

I have to tell them, as politely as possible, that I know it is. I know it is because the physics that I've just described is the same there, and I know it is because I've seen it myself.

But people still don't believe me, so I took a photo last week of the main road of the town I was staying in in France:

You see they just don't even bother trying to clear it. Everyone drives on the snow, carefully, and everything is alright. Until a Brit comes along revving, heavy braking, etc, and generally causing chaos it all works fine.