Cornwall’s gritters gear up for winter

Please read our information on how we are supporting residents and businesses, as well as information on affected services.


It’s that time of year again - the nights are drawing in, winter is in the air and Cornwall’s gritters continue to help to keep residents on the move.

Five yellow gritters in a line

Cornwall Council’s winter service is operated by Cormac, whose gritters last year treated around 64,500 miles of Cornish roads, travelling the equivalent of two and half times around the Earth.

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.

The Cormac crews are on 24-hour standby, including on Christmas Day, ready to expert weather forecasts and information from 20 constantly monitored road sensors.

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 (formerly Highways England) 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.

View information on clearing snow and ice

Cornwall Council portfolio holder for transport Philip Desmonde said: “Cornwall’s gritting crews do a fantastic job travelling thousands of miles around our county each winter to keep our busiest roads open.

“With our vast highway network it is not possible to treat every road 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 – please drive carefully and think of others.”

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.” 

Every year we pre order salt which is then 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 to provide information about disruption to services - you can also follow Cormac on Twitter.

Information on school closures will be posted on the Schools pages of our website.

Story posted November 29, 2021

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