There was rush hour chaos for commuters as roads across South West Birmingham were hit by a big freeze this morning (Friday 15th December). 

Many have complained that roads were not gritted sooner, but could gritting have prevented the rapid post-rain freeze? We asked council contractors Amey how they had gritted and why.

Buses halted around Beckbury Road, Weoley Castle | Katie Hall

As the weekend’s snow continues to thaw, there is still a Met Office Yellow Warning for ice in place – until Saturday lunchtime – and many schools did not reopen until Thursday, due to the slippery conditions.

‘Treacherous’

However, this morning’s excessively icy conditions came as a shock to many who had set out for a normal day, not expecting the roads and pathways to be so “treacherous” and “like glass”.

Buses halted

Buses got stuck and slid and many already on routes came to a halt in Frankley, Northfield, Rubery, Longbridge, Kings Norton, Bartley Green and beyond as it became unsafe for them to continue their journeys. B31 Voices readers sent videos of up to 9 buses halted in the Beckbury Road / Jervoise Road are of Weoley Castle.

Services to areas of West Heath, Rubery, Frankley, Bartley Green and Hawkesley became limited yet again.

Sliding vehicles

There were many minor accidents and vehicles sliding and blocking routes. In Tessall Lane, Northfield a Halesowen College coach became stuck as it tried to climb the hill near the junction with Josiah Road. The road became further restricted when a car and ambulance travelling down the steep hill slid and came to rest sideways in the middle of the road.


Gridlock

Traffic was gridlocked on routes between Northfield and Kitwell / Frankley as commuting vehicles skated around Egghill Lane and surrounding country roads. Another Halesowen College coach, carrying students from Bromsgrove, Rubery and Frankley, had to abandon it’s attempts to reach Halesowen, managing to return young people home several hours after they had set off on their journey.

Gritting error or unique circumstances?

Many have criticised Birmingham City Council for not gritting the roads overnight and we understand that gritters were not sent out until 7.30am this morning, when the problems were already beginning.

But why were gritters out late, and could anything have been done differently to prevent the ice rink like conditions?

According to a spokeswoman for Birmingham City Council highways contractor, Amey plc, a difficult decision had to be made about the timing of the gritting.

Lara Thorns said that salt levels on the road are constantly monitored along with weather forecasts and conditions.

With high levels of salt already on roads and a band of rain due to hit the region in the early hours of this morning, it was decided it would be best to lay more grit after the rain passed, so that it wouldn’t be washed away.

Rapid freeze

However, it seems that as soon as the rain stopped, cloud cleared quickly and temperatures plummeted very rapidly – “within 15 minutes” – freezing the rain on the roads before gritters had a chance to replenish the levels on Birmingham’s streets.

Read more about gritting in Birmingham

Cover image: Albie Taylor

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for the informative decisions from the council and Amey. i guess it does make sense getting the timing just right with regards the best time to grit. This is not an exact science and sometimes they are in a no-win situation.

    Feel sorry for commuters, and especially bus drivers trying to control their busses while keeping the safety of their passengers in mind, especially on untreated road and steep inclines.

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