Winter weather: how we treat the city's roads, pavements and cycleways

Edinburgh's Roads Services team take a range of factors into consideration when gritting the city - find out more.

How we make the decision on where and how much to treat

The City of Edinburgh Council’s Roads Services team, who carry out gritting duties, receives weather forecast information from the Met Office on a daily basis. This includes a detailed 24-hour weather forecast and a two-to-five days weather forecast, used to plan ahead.

Road sensors are used to record road surface conditions (such as road temperature and residual salt levels) as well as air temperature and wind speed/direction and detailed current and historical information on road conditions at selected points on the network are sent to the team via a web-based road monitoring system. 

Met Office forecasts and roadside information are analysed and modelled against ‘thermal maps’ of Edinburgh’s road network, which have been built up using data collected over recent years. 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 uses this information to make a treatment decision at midday each day with later updates if required due to forecast changes. The decision could be for no action, a pre-grit starting at 5pm or treatment all night. Later decisions may call for treatment at 5am or all-day treatment.

Thanks to thermal mapping, introduced this year, and route optimisation, Duty Managers are now able to make route-based decisions, prioritising the roads most in need of gritting.


Edinburgh Roads Services has 22 lorries which can be used for the treatment of roads and snow ploughing as well as mini-tractors and pick-up trucks available for the treatment of cycle paths and pavements.

Standby arrangements ensure that staff are available 24/7 throughout the winter months while a Council contract with a local farmer ensures the treatment of roads in the Balerno area.

It is only possible to treat Priority One routes outside of normal working hours, which include important principal roads, all bus routes and roads to fire stations, hospitals and schools, amongst other key services. These routes will be covered within four hours of treatment starting, although Roads Services aim to complete them in around three hours but weather conditions, traffic and technical issues can 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 One surface may have ice on it before it can be treated.

Salt bins

To help people to carry out their own gritting of local 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 by phoning 0800 23 23 23 for free, or on the Council website, where more information can be found on:

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

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.

Visit the Severe Weather page for:

  • Emergency road closures due to weather warnings
  • Gritting routes, grit bin locations and guidance on clearing paths
  • Real time 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


  • 14,500 tonnes of salt stockpiled for use across the city, which would allow 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.
  • 22 gritting and snow plough lorries
  • 1050km of priority one road network
  • 300km 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

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