Winter highway maintenance

The links below provide information and advice about the council’s Highway Winter Service:

Highway Winter Service Policy

The purpose of the Highway Winter Service Policy is to make clear the standard and extent of the winter maintenance service the council will provide by:

  • Maintaining key elements of the highway network and facilitating public transport’s accessibility
  • Assisting business continuity and resilience to other public sector and private sector service providers
  • Supporting the delivery of the refuse collection service during the winter months
  • Confirming what areas will not receive winter maintenance provision
  • Signposting residents, community groups and businesses to self help information to ensure they can adequately prepare themselves
  • Deploy all available resources to support undertake manual clearance of snow and ice from town centres and key public facilities.

Severe Weather Deployment Plan (SWDP)

Underpinning the new Policy is a Severe Weather Deployment Plan, which defines priority areas and how the council will arrange and mobilise available resources in the event of such an occurrence. Recent years' widespread snowfall and icy conditions caused much inconvenience and to ease the situation the council deployed operatives from various council departments on a footway clearing operation.

When it is forecast that snow will be above 40mm, or that rain will be followed by ice for more than 24 hours, the plan will come into action. Dedicated teams whose services have been temporarily suspended because of the bad weather will be deployed across the ten townships of the borough to clear the snow and ice from prioritised footways, such as outside clinics, doctors and day centres. Arrangements are also in place to support the waste collection service. In this event a set of designated communal refuse disposal points have been set up across the borough. The council has also ensured it has adequate stores of salt to deal with the most severe winters.


It is important to recognise that with approximately 1,072km of roads and almost double this amount of footways across the borough it is not possible for the council to grit this length of highway in one operation. Therefore we have to prioritise gritting and snow clearing into routes, according to their usage.

Given that the council’s resources are finite it is not possible to provide a winter service to every road and footpath within the borough. However, with a gritting fleet of ten dedicated vehicles which are fitted with ploughs, they are deployed within optimised areas to maximise their use and effectiveness to ensure we maintain access to key corridors and public facilities during the winter period.

Road priorities (precautionary salting)

Priority 1

High Speed, Strategic and main traffic routes (typically A, B and C Class Roads).

Priority 2

Local bus routes and roads which provide access to hospitals, ambulance and fire stations, Industrial estate roads; designated waste collection pick up stations as per the Severe Weather Deployment Plan.

No other roads will receive precautionary salting.

Precautionary salting will be fully operational within 1 hour of the decision to commence operations. All Priority 1 roads will be completed within 3 hours of operations commencing; and Priority 2 roads within 2 hours thereafter.

Please note that no footways will receive a precautionary salting.

Grit/salt bins and provision criteria

To supplement the shortfall of roads that cannot be gritted the council provides salt bins on a priority basis as a self help mechanism for residents most affected by the icy conditions on the public highways in their area. Due to the increase in demand for salt bins it is important to recognise that the council cannot service all requests and a criteria for their provision has been included within the Policy. Before any new locations are agreed the council will confirm that there is a genuine need for users of the highway. The criteria to meet will include the following:

  • Only provided on sites with difficult conditions e.g. steep hills, sharp bends, junctions etc.
  • There must be must sufficient space on the footpath or verge in order that the bin does not cause obstruction to pedestrians or traffic sight lines and the bin can be replenished safely.
  • No bins will be provided to serve a road if that road is included in the precautionary salting route.
  • No bins will be provided to serve a footway if that footway is included in the severe weather deployment plan.
  • No bins will be provided on un-adopted roads.
  • No bins will be provided for private areas or car parks for internal use by either council, public or private property such as schools, parks, hospitals, old people’s homes etc. unless a service level agreement is in place. (Please contact the Council 01942 404364 for further information on this service).

Salt bins will only be replenished during and immediately after periods of adverse weather as resources allow. Also, should a site prove problematic because of regular misuse of salt for the treatment of private driveways, or vandalism of a bin, the Council reserves the right to remove the bin.

Requests for salt bins can be made online.

How you can help yourself

Salt supplies

Salt is not provided to members of the public or local businesses who will need to make their own provision for salting on their own premises. It is common for residents in winter to spread rock salt (also known as grit salt) on their walkways and driveways to melt ice and thin layers of snow. Salt can quickly become in short supply especially during severe weather conditions and the council would advise people to be prepared and have the necessary supplies and equipment in place for these conditions.

Supplies of salt, salt storage facilities etc. that will help the public through the winter weather periods are ready available at local DIY, general hardware stores as well as a list of alternative suppliers listed on the internet.


Icy pavements and roads can be very slippery:

  • Take extra care if you go out and wear boots or shoes with good grip on the soles.
  • Always check the weather forecast, don’t get caught out by the unexpected.
  • Wear appropriate clothing.
  • Be both warm and visible.
  • Carry a torch if required.
  • Be aware of icy pavements. If you have to walk on a road, face oncoming vehicles so that you can react to the traffic.
  • Watch out for objects buried in the snow which might trip you up or cause injury.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.
  • If you carry a mobile phone, check that the battery is charged.
  • Look out for others. Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be more vulnerable to cold weather. Cold weather is especially dangerous for older people or people with serious illnesses, so check up on them if you can.
  • Keep up to date. Local radio is an excellent source of regular road and weather updates: Wish FM: 102.4FM and BBC Radio Manchester: 95.1FM.
  • More information on how to clear snow from a road, path or cycleway (external link).

Safe driving

We ask that all road users take particular care during poor driving conditions and take precautions to ensure that they and their vehicle are safe for winter driving. Always ask yourself whether or not your journey is essential. If driving conditions are bad, it may be worth considering travelling by rail or bus.

If you do need to use your vehicle, please wait until the roads have been gritted.

Check the local radio or internet for travel information, including weather forecasts.

  • Make sure someone knows your planned route and estimated time of arrival.
  • Give yourself time to make sure your vehicle is safe – check your tyre pressure and tread. Don’t forget your spare tyre.
  • Ensure your vehicle’s lights are clean and in working order and that you have enough fuel and windscreen wash before starting your journey.
  • Never set off until all the windows and mirrors have been cleared and defrosted.
  • Prepare yourself with a torch, mobile phone, wellingtons, warm clothing and, for longer journeys, a shovel and a hot flask.
  • Accelerate and brake more gently when in wet and icy conditions.
  • Break before reaching a bend, not on it.
  • Use dipped headlights in mist, heavy rain, fog or falling snow.
  • Use rear fog lights in fog, mist or falling snow but not in rain.
  • Remember to switch them off as soon as conditions allow.
  • Slow down and be aware of vulnerable road users such as cyclists, motor cyclists and pedestrians.

Local services

Local services may be affected by the weather. For an update on how the weather may be affecting refuse collection, roads, parking and schools please use the council’s web site.

Travelling by rail or air

If you are travelling by rail or air, check directly with your rail or airline company to find out if their services have been affected by local weather or other problems, and allow extra travel time to get to the station or airport. You can usually get this information from the internet.

Information booklet

The highway winter services booklet provides an overview of the policy and gives useful self help to residents including advice on safe driving in winter conditions.

© Wigan Council