Session 2010-11
Publications on the internet

Written evidence from the National Winter Service Research Group (NWSRG) (AWC 18)


The National Salt Spreading Research Group (NSSRG) was set up in 2001 in order to provide good practice advice and recommendations to highway authorities regarding salt spreading during winter conditions. Principally, this was to assist them in achieving best value, to ensure effective winter road treatments and to provide an understanding of winter risk and its mitigation. This was achieved through a planned programme of research and practical trials.

In 2009, the Group widened its remit to cover the highway winter service in its entirety and to allow a better alignment with new Government policies, including Towards a Sustainable Transport System (TaSTS). The Group was also renamed as the National Winter Service Research Group (NWSRG) to reflect these changes.

The NWSRG comprises organisations, individuals and groups from both the public and private sectors involved in the provision of winter service upon the highways of the United Kingdom, including UK national and local highways authorities, and consultants and contractors that supply winter service. Industry Associates to the Group provide technical expertise and other resources to assist delivery of the Group’s aims and objectives. The aims of the NWSRG are:

1. To undertake applied research in the field of highway winter service to further the prevention, and aid the removal, of ice and snow from the highway network. The aims of the research include the identification and development of efficient and effective winter service methodologies.

2. To provide research findings and best practice advice to Group Members.

3. To maintain, on a national basis, a long-standing research group to further advance the understanding and delivery of effective highway winter service.

The Production of Practical Guidance on Winter Service Operations

Towards the end of 2009, the NWSRG Steering Group commenced the production of a new "Practical Guide for Procurement and Delivery of Winter Service Operations". During 2010 guidance has been prepared on topics such as salt storage, spreader calibration and performance, spread rates for precautionary treatments and treatments for ice and snow. It is estimated that authorities should be able to achieve salt savings of at least 20 per cent by following such guidance.

The importance of the NWSRG was acknowledged within the 'Quarmby' Winter Resilience Review that was published in October 2010, and following which it was concluded that the NWSRG work should be made available to all UK highway and road authorities involved in delivering Winter Services through the UK Roads Liaison Group, within which it will soon sit.

The Lessons Learnt and the Need for Future Investment

Many NWSRG members have been at the front-line in supplying winter services during the recent cold weather, and the work already undertaken by the NWSRG has helped to improve the delivery of its services. Our members have learnt from their recent experiences that there remains a need for comprehensive practical guidance on dealing with problems on the UK’s roads caused by snow and ice, whilst seeking efficiency savings and value for money. At present the NWSRG is one of the few organisations in the UK that is able to bring together private and public sector organisations in such a way that knowledge and ideas can be openly exchanged, and new research commissioned into topics that will improve the performance of the UK’s winter service provision.

Much of the work required includes the production of further guidance on topics such as:

· Salt storage and salt moisture content

· Salt spreader calibration and performance monitoring

· Spread rates for precautionary treatments

· Treatments for ice and snow

· Road weather information systems

· Decision making based on weather forecasts

· Selecting routes to treat

· Treatments for extreme weather (including low temperatures)

· Treatment of footway and cycle facilities

· Preparation of business cases for investment.

This work is paramount to the development of a more comprehensive and effective means of forecasting and dealing with snow and ice on our roads and preventing the type of disruption that has impacted on our economy as a result of the severe weather in November and December 2010.

The NWSRG, in its new role within the UK Roads Liaison Group, is ideally placed to lead with the production of such guidance, and its members are keen to continue to provide funding. To address the full scope and urgency of the needs of winter service providers, we will however need support and investment from both local and national government.

February 2011