County council shows true grit with new salt barn

A new building to store road salt has been opened helping the county be ready for future cold or snowy weather.

Oxfordshire County Council’s new salt barn will be used to store up to 5,500t of road de-icing salt and, come next winter, will be used to provide the gritters with the material they need to spread on the roads in the south of the county.

Until now the salt has been kept outdoors, which works well, but lacks some of the advantages of the new salt barn.

Keeping the salt in the purpose-built structure ensures that the moisture content can be more closely controlled, meaning that it works even more efficiently once in the wagons as it goes through the spreading spinner, reducing the amount needed. This saves money and is better for the environment.


Drayton Salt Barn Timelapse

County Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet member for Environment, said: “Our gritting team do an excellent job all through the winter.

“They deal with whatever the weather has to throw at them and make sure that the salt gets out on the roads. And we must not forget that they also have day jobs helping to maintain and fix Oxfordshire’s roads – they are a hard-working and committed bunch.”

“I’d like to thank everyone for the work that they do during the harshest of weathers and often in the middle of the night when most people are still in bed, so that we can get where we need to be safely.

“The new salt barn will be a great advantage next winter as it will increase our capacity to store more salt and potentially order it in at times when prices are lower.”

So far this winter, since November the crews have been out on Oxfordshire’s roads 38 times, covering a total of 46,140 miles – that’s about twice round the Earth – using more than 7,200 tonnes of salt.

This winter has been pretty average, but over the last 10 years there have been a few really cold and snowy ones, including last years’ Beast from the East.

The winter team numbers 28 including support staff with nine gritting routes covered from the depot at Drayton by 18 drivers who have access to ten vehicles. The county council also has depots at Deddington in the north of the county and a smaller satellite depot at Wood Eaton.

Things you might not know about gritting:

  • It’s not grit – it’s salt (we don’t know why it started being called ‘gritting’)
  • Oxfordshire county council salts all of its A-roads, B-roads and some more heavily used minor roads. This amounts to approximately 1,200 miles per gritting run which is the equivalent of travelling from London to Iceland, this being approximately 43 % of Oxfordshire’s network
  • The salt is corrosive and the gritters must be steam cleaned and wax-oiled regularly. Even so, parts have to be replaced due to corrosion.
  • The Spinners are controlled within the cab by the driver and can be adjusted to suit the road width When spreading the gritting vehicles are speed restricted to a maximum of 30 mph
  • Salt needs traffic to make it work – driving over it crushes it on the road surface and works it into a solution with moisture on the road which helps it to work efficiently and reduces the potential freezing temperature of any moisture on the surface
  • Salt works most effectively down to about -6°c and care is always needed if you are driving in freezing temperatures even if you can see a road has been salted
  • When it snows we do also plough the roads. BUT the ploughs can’t go right down to make contact with the road surface so that things like cat’s eyes are not damaged.