Winter is coming: The NWSRG spreads the word

Chris Ames

Highways reports from the National Winter Service Research Group’s (NWSRG) workshop on forthcoming changes to its guidance.

The NWSRG’s workshop took place on the outskirts of Exeter on a mild day in September, six months after Devon was heavily hit by snowfall as the Beast from the East’s cold air hit the damp air of Storm Emma.

But the event was also timely in that October is the month when many councils begin their winter service. This October also sees the deadline by which councils are supposed to work to new winter service guidance as part of the new code of practice.

Picture: Chris Cranston

The NWSRG of course had been invited to rewrite what was Appendix H of the old code, bringing it into line with the risk-based approach under the new one.

NWSRG chair Chris Cranston said parts of the guidance were nearly ready to submit to the UK Roads Board. It has been rewritten to make it easier to read and understand than Appendix H, with supporting information in appendices. The Institute of Highway Engineers, whose chief executive Richard Hayes was present, had helped format it for online publication.

Attendees heard presentations on the theory and practice of determining which parts of an authority’s network are to be treated, including a case study from Andy Cole, who works with Mr Cranston in Devon.

He stressed the importance of listening to claimants and their representatives, who, he said, may be raising issues that need to be considered.

NWSRG vice chair Carol Valentine introduced a section on treatment methods – dry salt, treated salt, pre-wet salt and direct liquid application. Attendees were given a preview of what are now just two tables, showing which methods provide good performance, are appropriate, or not recommended, for a range of conditions for both precautionary and reactive treatment.

Ms Valentine said there was ‘no right answer’ and that authorities have to look at what is appropriate for them.

David Kinsey of Derby City Council gave a presentation on why it moved to using treated salt, explaining that issues had arisen with salt being too dry following the construction of a new storage barn.

While using pre-wet requires a capital outlay, forecasts showed that treated salt could save approximately 1,000 tonnes, more than covering the premium paid for it, while the increased stability of the moisture content provides greater resilience.

Robbie Jamieson of Essex Highways recounted his experience of the cost benefits of using pre-wet salt, acknowledging that no one method was best but suggesting that councils need to move away from using dry salt. He noted however that in responding to the Beast from the East, Essex switched briefly to dry salt to meet demand.

Peter Turland of Doncaster Council spoke about the importance of spreader management, which covers more than calibration he said. He gave an update on the new guidance on the issue, which is with the steering group for final approval. Where the old guidance required spreaders to be re-calibrated every four months, the new version instead stresses the need to monitor throughout the season.

Adrian Runacres, a technical adviser to the NWSRG, gave an update on the new guidance on spread rates, which now has just three tables on one page. He pointed out that using less salt increases resilience by making stocks last longer, but warned that spread rates can only be used with confidence if other elements, such as calibration, are right.

Mr Hayes observed that while the guidance uses increments of one gram per square metre (gsm), many older spreaders can only be adjusted by five gsm at a time.

Mr Runacres also covered the importance of traffic in making low quantities of salt effective and warned that assumptions about residual salt need to be evidence-based, recommending ‘eyes on the road’.

On the issue of when to treat when precipitation is expected, the guidance includes a note acknowledging what a tricky call this can be, which Mr Runacres said could help authorities in court.

He also showed draft guidance suggesting that practitioners consider increasing spread rates at higher wind speeds. With the guidance stressing the importance of good storage to low spread rates, two authorities described their experience of developing new facilities.

Chris Riley of Gloucestershire CC recounted how it had problems with salt being slightly too dry or too damp, depending on whether it had come straight out of the mine, but suggested that the wider tolerances in the new guidance would help with this.

With the Met Office hosting the event, it ended with a discussion of weather forecasting. Met Office scientist Anthony Veal explained the limitations of different types of forecast while Mr Cranston brought matters full circle by looking at Devon’s application of forecasts to its gritting routes.

There are, he suggested, more savings to be made by increasing the granularity of route-based forecasting.

Highways jobs

Highways Estimator

Competitive Salary
As the Highways Estimator you will join a busy environment and become an integral part of the team. Hounslow (London Borough), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Ringway

County Highways Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£55,503 - £60,578
Seeking a highly motivated leader and an excellent communicator, who has a proven ability to build relationships and trust, leading by example. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Local Highways Manager (East) - Lincolnshire County Council

Lincolnshire County Council
G12 £43,662 - £50,430
Seeking someone who combines excellent technical knowledge with a dedication to the customer. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Assistant Director (Planning, Regeneration & Transport)

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
£87,791 per annum  
This is an exciting time to join Rotherham and make a real difference. We are looking for an outstanding Assistant Director who will bring... Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Corporate Director

Islington London Borough Council
Up to £135k
You will share our values and be passionate about helping us shape the Islington of the future. Islington, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Islington London Borough Council

Assistant Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,074 - £30,756
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire. Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Junior Energy Manager Apprentice

Brent Council
£15,000 p.a. inc.
The right person for this job will be pro-active and innovative in finding a way forward. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Career Grade Drainage Engineer

Swindon Borough Council
£19,092 to £40,680 p.a
Working in the asset management team, you’ll support the work of the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) and Highways Authority. Swindon, Wiltshire
Recuriter: Swindon Borough Council

Highway Construction Project Manager

Brent Council
£50,442 - £53,526 p.a. inc.
We are looking for an accomplished highway construction project manager to support the delivery of two high priority highway schemes. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Signals & UTMC Manager

Bristol City Council
£42,683 - £45,591
Looking for someone with proven management experience, enthusiasm, creativity, vision and good communication skills. City of Bristol
Recuriter: Bristol City Council

Principal Highways Project Engineer

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council
£34,106 - £35,229 per annum
The post holder will be responsible for project managing the delivery of two highway projects on the Key Route Network. Knowsley (Metropolitan borough), Merseyside
Recuriter: Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Traffic Schemes Officer

Oxfordshire County Council
£22,021 - £29,636 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen to play a central role with the Traffic Team in the maintenance of the highway network... Kidlington, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Traffic Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£29,055 to £30,756
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team! Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Assistant Engineer – Traffic Regulation

Telford & Wrekin Council
£23,866 to £25,463
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team. Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Environment Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£29,909 – £32,233 Grade 11 - £33,136 - £35,229
All Environment Officers lead, project manage and/or co-ordinate large environmental projects... Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Highways Quantity Surveyor

Leicester City Council
£30,756 - £33,136 pro-rata per annum
Working in the Highways Maintenance Group, you will be responsible for the operational highway maintenance activities Leicester, Leicestershire
Recuriter: Leicester City Council

Highways Engineer/Inspector

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£22956 - £32637 per annum
Highways Engineer/Inspector - PermanentThere are plenty of reasons to take a closer look at Royal Greenwich.Royal Greenwich is undergoing a huge trans England, London, Woolwich
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Senior Project Engineer

Derbyshire County Council
Grade 13 £39,867 - £43,282 per annum
Derbyshire County Council is looking for an enthusiastic, enterprising and experienced laboratory manager Derbyshire
Recuriter: Derbyshire County Council

Engineer - Bridges

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
We have a vacancy for a Structures Engineer working within the Bridge’s team! Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council


Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
You will be required to lead the delivery of a wide range of highway improvements and maintenance projects... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Download your Highways App

Google App Apple App

Highways on Fridays

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue


  • The view from the regions
  • Essential Brexit analysis
  • Traffex and Parkex preview
View the latest issue

Latest Video