Council Briefing Note – Coping with Winter Weather in Edinburgh.


Below is a briefing I received from Council Officer in their preparations for “winter weather”. 

TOPIC:  WINTER MAINTENANCE SERVICE (gritting and snow clearing) 2018/19

Date:   20/11/18

The City of Edinburgh Council has a statutory duty (under Section 34 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984) to take such steps as it considers “reasonable to prevent snow and ice endangering the safe passage of pedestrians and vehicles over public roads”.  The intention of this duty is not that the Council will take immediate and simultaneous steps to clear and/or treat every road whenever ice or snow exists.  It is recognised by the Courts that this would be impossible and beyond the limits of available resources.



  • 14,000 tonnes of salt stockpiled for use across the city; initial resilience of 38 days of continuous heavy treatment
  • 19 mini-tractors, based at depots across Edinburgh, used for high ground pavements, city centre routes, cycle paths and local priority routes.
  • 12 up to date hired gritting and snow plough lorries
  • 10 CEC multi use gritting and snow plough lorries
  • 1050km of priority 1 road network
  • 300 kilometres of priority pavements and cycleways
  • 96 Edinburgh Roads Services staff working three shifts to treat roads and park and rides
  • 60 staff from across the Council working three shifts to treat priority footways and cycle routes with mini-tractors
  • Place Management staff to treat Local Priority routes


Edinburgh Road Services (ERS) leads the Winter Maintenance Service for the City of Edinburgh Council in conjunction with other teams within Place Management.  The purpose of this service is to allow pavement, cycle way and road users’ safe movement over Priority routes during wintry weather.



ERS receives weather forecast information from the Met Office on a daily basis.  This includes a detailed 24-hour weather forecast and a 2 to 5 days weather forecast for planning purposes.

Detailed current and historical information on road conditions, at selected points on the network, are received by means of a web-based road monitoring system.  Road Sensors record road surface conditions (such as road temperature and residual salt levels) as well as air temperature and wind speed/direction.

The Met Office forecasts and roadside information are analysed and modelled against the thermal maps of Edinburgh’s road network. This is then presented on a web platform that displays the minimum forecast road surface temperature and the likelihood of ice forming.

The Duty Manager makes a treatment decision at mid-day each day with later updates if required due to forecast changes. The decision could be for no action, a pre grit starting at 17:00 or treatment all night. Later decisions may call for treatment at 05:00 or all day treatment.

Following thermal mapping and route optimisation, Duty Managers are now able to make route based decisions. Following the forecast with the map image above of 26 October, 4 priority 1 road routes were required to be gritted. Prior to thermal mapping, the forecast information presented would have led to a decision to treat the whole city; on this occasion 80% of variable resources were saved.

If you would like a demonstration or further explanation of thermal mapping and route based decision making, please get in touch (contact details below).



 ERS has 12 hired in, fixed body gritter lorries and 10 CEC owned multi body gritters (the body can be changed to eg a flatbed) available for the treatment of roads and snow ploughing.

Mini-tractors and pick-up/3.5t trucks are available for the treatment of cycle paths and pavements both on the priority 1 network and Local priority routes.

Standby arrangements ensure that staff are available 24/7 throughout the winter months.  ERS also has a Contract with a local Farmer, for the treatment of roads in the Balerno area.

As part of a Plant Framework Agreement, ERS can access additional gritters with drivers to supplement the in-house resources.

Priority 1 routes will be covered within 4 hours of treatment starting, although ERS aim to complete them in around 3 hours. Weather conditions, traffic and technical issues will impact timings. When possible, surfaces will be treated before it freezes. This is not always possible and the public MUST be aware that at times, a Priority 1 surface may have ice on it for up to 4 hours before it can be treated.

Only Priority 1 Pavements, Cycleways and Roads are treated outside normal working hours.

CEC has mutual agreements with the adjoining Lothian Councils for the treatment of roads that cross the City boundary, to ensure full coverage of the road network.  The Scottish Executive’s agent for the maintenance of the trunk road network (A720 City Bypass, M8 and M9) including the slip roads is Amey.  CEC has an agreement with Amey for the treatment of roads that interface with the trunk road network



To enable people to carry out self-help treatment of roads and pavements, salt bins are positioned throughout the City.  These bins are checked and refilled, based on area treatment decisions, throughout the winter months.  Requests for new bins or reports of empty bins can be made to Clarence on freephone 0800 23 23 23 or through the Council website.

In an ‘emergency’ situation the Council will deploy a number of 1tonne bags of salt at strategic points throughout the City.

Go to for:

  • Gritting routes and grit bin locations
  • Advice on clearing snow/ice
  • How to report an empty, damaged or missing grit bin
  • How we prioritise which streets get gritted first
  • Request a new grit bin



When severe ‘emergency’ weather is forecast, the Resilience Team will call a meeting with key staff from across the Council and Partners to consider the possible impact on the City and to draft a probable first stage action and resource plan to address potential needs and demands.

A move from ‘normal’ to an ‘emergency’ situation will be taken by a member of the Council’s Management Team.  This decision will be communicated to the Council’s Winter Weather Silver Commander who will advise key staff.

This prompt will result in the Council’s Silver Command team becoming established and this team, under the control of the Council’s Silver Commander, is responsible for the Winter Maintenance response until the situation reverts back to ‘normal’.  The Silver Command team has a base in Bankhead depot alongside the ERS Duty Officer.

The Council has a Contingency Framework Agreement for contractors who can be contacted in the event of Edinburgh experiencing a spell of severe winter weather.  This agreement makes provision for an emergency 4-hour response and for Contractors to carry out severe weather operations 7days a week and through holiday periods.  This supplements the Winter Maintenance Service provided by Council Services and is managed through the Council’s Silver Command structure.

Go to the Severe Weather page for:

  • Emergency road closures due to weather warnings
  • Gritting routes, grit bin locations and guidance on clearing paths
  • Realtime updates on traffic and travel delays
  • Support for older, disabled or isolated people
  • School closures due to severe weather or other emergencies
  • What to do to be prepared in case of a storm
  • Report a flood or find out who to contact for help
  • Current delays to rubbish and recycling collections



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