Walsall winter maintenance
Adding resilience to the winter gritting service
In this winter’s cold spell the government took over central management of national salt supplies. Under these unusual conditions, Walsall Borough Council required a fast and effective solution to its diminishing gritting stocks to ensure minimum disruption for local road users. Tarmac National Contracting was able to help.
As part of its highways maintenance contract with Walsall Borough Council, Tarmac is required to apply salt to 267 miles of roads in the borough as a precaution during the winter months when weather conditions demand it.
Walsall, with Tarmac’s support, was well prepared for the winter service with state-of-the-art integrated salt tracking and management systems to closely monitor stock levels in order to avoid a shortage of salt. However, the UK as a whole was under-prepared for the ‘Big Freeze’ in January this year. The government’s ‘Salt Cell’ - which directed salt-supplying companies to the areas in the country that were most in need – created unique supply and demand conditions. Tarmac’s agreement with its supplier to ensure that Walsall has 3,500 tonnes of salt in stock at any one time was overridden and its supply began to diminish.
Glyn Oliver, service manager at Walsall Borough Council, said: “The Salt Cell meant that we could not use our salt management system to avoid a shortage of salt. Usually, the web based salt management system that monitors our salt stock are triggered when we reach 1,500 tonnes and a new delivery is made to Tarmac within two days.”
As part of the centralisation of salt management during the 2010 cold snap, Walsall could not request a delivery of salt until it had three days of salt left – approximately 150-200 tonnes.
The Council, which has a £6 million annual maintenance contract with Tarmac National Contracting, worked in partnership with Tarmac to find a quick and effective solution in the face of a national shortage. Tarmac recommended the use of a salt/aggregate blend for gritting as an alternative to 100 per cent salt to make their supplies go further and to provide enhanced traction.
Supplied by Tarmac’s Dolyhir quarry in Wales, 400 tonnes of 6mm/3mm 65-68 Polished Stone Value [PSV] Gritstone were delivered to the depot in Walsall where it was mixed with the existing salt in a 50/50 rocksalt/Gritstone blend.
Gritstone is a sedimentary rock composed of coarse, often angular, sand grains and small pebbles. The stone is resilient and has great resistance to weathering as it contains very little mica, which can cause failure in finer grained sandstones.
“As a high performance stone used in asphalt to build and repair UK roads, Gritstone was the obvious choice for this salt/aggregate blend as it was able to provide some traction on areas of compacted snow and ice while the salt worked to break down the frozen water,” said Jason Suffolk, contracts manager for Tarmac National Contracting.
“The salt/aggregate solution also meant that we were not only able to continue gritting roads in Walsall during the severe weather, but lent 400 tonnes of grit to help Birmingham City Council, which was at crisis point and within one day of running out of grit,” Jason Suffolk concludes.
“We are very pleased with the quick-thinking action Tarmac took to avert a potential transport crisis during the harsh winter we faced earlier this year”, continues Glyn Oliver.
“Safety is paramount when it comes to winter road maintenance, and although a 100 per cent salt solution would have been preferable to this alternative, with such diminished resources, we were able to continue to effectively grit the busiest roads in Walsall to ensure the safety of road users in treacherous conditions.”
Why Tarmac National Contracting?
- National coverage - local service
- Clear focus on teamwork, innovation and safety, underpinned by our Sustainability framework.
- Close client collaboration to help support new regulations and the complex demands for highways maintenance.
- Played a major role in developing, modernising and maintaining the UK roads and transport infrastructure.
- Our extensive experience enables us to utilise our skill and versatility to benefit a variety of customers and sectors.
- Building relationships to deliver with a range of local authorities.
- Highly qualified teams providing a range of services and innovative products.
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