How we look after roads in winter
We provide a winter gritting service during the period from early October to early April, to clear ice and snow from the public highway network. The gritting service covers 178 miles of the borough's roads, which is 38% of the network.
Our Winter Service Policy establishes what we will do during periods of bad weather to maintain the safe movement of all highway users, public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.
Where do we grit?
Seven primary routes are gritted. These include:
- All strategic routes
- Major bus routes
- Roads leading to fire stations, ambulance stations and hospitals
- Roads on significant hills/inclines and known trouble spots
It's not possible to grit every road within the borough with the resources available. Find your nearest grit bin and see the roads that we grit. You can also use this interactive map to view the winter gritting routes.
Motorways are the responsibility of Highways England, including M6 junction 23 (Haydock Island).
When do we grit?
Duty engineers monitor the weather 24 hours a day and treat the highway when it's needed.
Detailed forecasts are provided by MetDesk on a daily basis. The forecast gives predictions of the possibility of freezing road temperatures, snow, rain etc and the time that these conditions are likely to occur. This enables the Duty Engineer to decide if or when gritting will be carried out.
There are two non-invasive sensors within St Helens. The sensors provide information on air temperature, road temperature and surface conditions. This data is used to provide forecasts which are specific to St Helens. Duty Engineers also have access to data from other sensors within the Liverpool City Region.
In times of prolonged bad weather, our local response arrangements may be influenced by central government control of salt and grit supplies through the activation of the salt cell.
Whenever the crew is sent out, we post updates on our Gritting updates page.
How does gritting work?
Rock salt lowers the freezing point of moisture on the road surface, stopping ice from forming and causing existing ice or snow to melt. For grit to work most effectively it needs traffic to crush and spread it across the road. When it snows heavily at night, though a road is gritted the snow will often still settle. Unfortunately that means for the first few drivers it may be slippery.
The purpose of grit bins is to enable the community to assist with maintaining access for highway users. The salt in the bins must not be taken for use outside the public highway.
Salt can quickly become in short supply, especially during severe weather conditions. The Council would therefore advise people to be prepared and have the necessary supplies and equipment in readiness for these conditions.
Salt from Council stocks will not be supplied to members of the public. Salt can be purchased from builder's merchants and DIY stores for personal use.
Grit bins are assessed and prioritised against a set criterion that includes sites with difficult conditions e.g. steep hills and sharp bends etc.
How to prepare for winter
Be prepared for the winter season by getting your vehicle serviced to ensure it is fit and safe for winter driving. In addition to a service you should carry out regular checks on the vehicle, ensuring that:
- There is no wear and tear on wiper blades
- Tyre pressure is at the manufacturer's recommended level
- You have three millimetres of tread depth
- All vehicle lights are working and clean
When temperatures are close to or below zero, drive carefully and never assume that a road has been gritted. Ask yourself if your journey is absolutely necessary. Even roads that have been gritted can have ice present.
Before leaving on your journey listen to weather forecasts as they can often warn of icy conditions and wait for your windscreen to be clear before driving.
Slow down and allow for extra space between you and the vehicle in front, you may need to allow extra time for your journey. Avoid harsh braking, acceleration and steering as these can all cause your vehicle to skid.
Enquiries and service requests can be made on our Contact us form. During times of prolonged severe weather all available resources will be deployed keeping primary routes open and it will not be possible to respond to service requests on other roads.