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When will the roadways be ploughed?
We start ploughing the roadways when there is more than five centimetres of snow or more than three centimetres of slush on the ground. We plough residential streets when there is more than seven centimetres of snow or more than five centimetres of slush on the ground.
We first plough the main streets and routes used by public transport. Then we move on to residential streets. When heavy snowfall continues for an extended period of time, we must plough the main roadways and streets used by public transport continuously. As a result, the snow ploughs are delayed in moving on to residential streets.
Roadway ploughing schedules on a map
- Main streets = red (Class I): ploughed by 7.00 in the morning. We also plough the route within three hours of the end of snowfall between 4.00 and 18.00.
- Streets used by public transport = orange (Class II): ploughed by 7.00 in the morning. We also plough the route within four hours of the end of snowfall between 4.00 and 17.00.
- Residential streets = yellow (Class III): ploughed within three weekdays.
When will the pavements and cycle paths be ploughed?
We start ploughing pavements and cycle paths when the thickness of the layer of snow exceeds five centimetres. After ploughing, we grit the routes as necessary.
During continuous snowfall, we first head for routes in Classes A and B and try to keep them accessible. Once it has stopped snowing, we move on to ploughing routes in Class C.
Snow removal schedules for pavements and cycle paths on a map
- Class A (red): ploughed by 7.00 in the morning
Between 3.00 and 17.00, we also plough the route within four hours of the end of snowfall.
- Class B (orange): ploughed by 10.00 in the morning
Between 6.00 and 17.00, we also plough the route within four hours of the end of snowfall.
- Class C (yellow): ploughed by 12.00 noon
Between 4.00 and 13.00, we also plough the route within eight hours of the end of snowfall.
During exceptionally heavy snowfall, the amount of snow on the streets may pile up so high that we will have to deviate from this target schedule. There is no winter maintenance on routes indicated with light blue.
Both the City of Helsinki and properties are responsible for winter maintenance
The winter street maintenance responsibilities are divided between the City of Helsinki and properties. The division of responsibilities varies between the inner city area and other areas of Helsinki.
Division of responsibilities in Helsinki’s inner city area
- Responsibility of the City of Helsinki: Ploughing, gritting and salting the roadways.
- Responsibility of the property: Ploughing and gritting the pavements adjacent to the property.
- Inner city area: Alppiharju, Eira, Etu-Töölö (west side of Runeberginkatu), Hermanni, Kaartinkaupunki, Kaivopuisto, Kallio, Kamppi, Katajanokka, Kluuvi, Kruununhaka, Länsisatama, Punavuori, Ruoholahti, Sörnäinen, Ullanlinna and Vallila.
Division of responsibilities in other areas
- Responsibility of the City of Helsinki: The City of Helsinki has total responsibility for the winter maintenance of roadways and pavements.
- Responsibility of the property: Removing snow from the driveway entrances of the plots after ploughing.
The State of Finland is responsible for maintaining Finland’s main roads. Examples of the main roads include Länsiväylä, Hämeenlinnanväylä, Tuusulanväylä, Lahdenväylä and the Ring Roads.
Frequently asked questions about winter street maintenance
If the poorly maintained pavement is located in the inner city, you should contact the owner of the property located adjacent to the pavement. This is because property owners are responsible for the winter maintenance of pavements in the inner city.
If the property owner does not rectify the deficiencies despite being asked to do so, you can report the deficiencies to the customer service of the City of Helsinki’s Urban Environment Division with the feedback form, for example. We will then notify the property of the issue.
If the poorly maintained pavement is located outside of the inner city area, the City of Helsinki is responsible for its maintenance. You can provide feedback by using the City of Helsinki’s feedback form. In the event of heavy snowfall continuing for an extended period of time, it may take us longer than three weekdays to plough the residential streets.
We primarily prevent slippery conditions on pedestrian walkways and pavements by spreading grit. We spread salt on segregated paths for pedestrians and cyclists that are covered by intensified winter maintenance. On other routes, we avoid using salt because it is harmful for dogs’ paws, is easily carried on the soles of shoes to stairwells and is also more expensive than grit.
The grit we use for winter maintenance consists of crushed rock. Thanks to its jagged surface, it prevents pedestrians and cyclists from slipping more efficiently than regular sand. Grit also costs less and does not cause as much street dust in the spring as regular sand. Additionally, producing sand from deposits of natural gravel is problematic from an environmental perspective.
Please also note that properties are responsible for the prevention of slippery conditions and other winter maintenance of pavements in most of Helsinki’s inner city area.
We are responsible for the safety of pedestrians on all routes intended to be accessible in the winter. Even if we were to spread grit on only a part of the pavement, the grit would still spread across the width of the path. Moreover, we could not guarantee that pedestrians would only walk on the gritted section of the street or path. For these reasons, the policy of the City of Helsinki is to grit the entire path without leaving an ungritted section for sledges.
We primarily prevent slippery conditions on roadways by spreading salt. This allows us to significantly reduce the amount of street dust in the spring. We use grit when we believe that salt will not sufficiently prevent slippery conditions – salt becomes less effective in very low freezing temperatures.
The grit we use for winter maintenance consists of crushed rock. Thanks to its jagged surface, it provides a better grip than regular sand. Grit also costs less and does not cause as much street dust in the spring as regular sand. Additionally, producing sand from deposits of natural gravel is problematic from an environmental perspective.
Snow plough operators are able to turn their ploughs at the entrances to driveways to some extent in order to minimise snowbanks in such places, but snowbanks cannot be avoided completely.
According to Finnish law, removing a snowbank in front of a gate or entrance to a driveway is part of the plot holder’s winter driveway maintenance responsibility.
As an exception, the City of Helsinki is responsible for removing the heavy snowbanks caused by the removal of tightly compacted ridges of snow and ice on roadways. We remove such heavy snowbanks as soon as possible after the removal of the ridges, but please be prepared for a few hours’ delay.
We remove the grit used for winter maintenance and wash the streets in the spring, once the temperature no longer falls below zero degrees Celsius during the night and slippery conditions no longer occur. In other words, the schedule for washing the streets in the spring depends on the weather conditions.
There are nine snow dump areas in Helsinki, and one of them dumps snow into the sea. This particular snow dump area is located in Hernesaari, an area of the Helsinki district of Länsisatama. Additionally, the snow dump areas in the Viikki district and the Kyläsaari area of the Hermanni district are snow melting sites, from which the meltwater flows into the sea.
The Hernesaari snow dump area is the largest of its kind in Helsinki in terms of the volume of snow managed, and there is no room in the surrounding area to set up a replacement site. Transporting snow to the snow dump areas located further away would increase carbon dioxide emissions, cause congestion on the streets and slow down street cleaning efforts.
We are trying to reduce marine litter with the help of a bubble curtain, which we have installed in the sea on a trial basis. The bubble curtain comprises a 50-metre-long hose with holes, through which a compressor blows bubbles into the water. The bubbles keep any litter near the shore, where a fishing trawler converted into a snow melting and treatment machine scoops up the litter and snow into a device that melts the snow and separates litter from it.
If any litter gets past the bubble curtain, it is stopped by the containment boom installed further away – or by ice. If this trial is a success, we will install more of the hoses in the coming winters, spanning a distance ten times as long.
We previously tested a curtain boom as a method of stopping the spread of litter. However, our trial showed that the curtain boom does not work well in such a windy spot.
In the long term, the City of Helsinki seeks to discontinue dumping snow into the sea, taking into account the overall environmental impacts of this practice (decision by the Urban Environment Committee on 29 October 2019 (in Finnish)(Link leads to external service)).
The Hernesaari snow dump area has been proposed for inclusion in the future Hernesaari partial city plan. As a result, the snow dump area will not require an action permit (normally required for the construction of structures not equivalent to buildings). However, the City of Helsinki applied for an environmental permit for the location from the Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (in Finnish) in autumn 2022. This would allow environmental criteria to be set for the snow dump area, independent of the City of Helsinki. In the future, the environmental impacts of snow management could be monitored through these criteria.
According to a report commissioned by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment in 2020, the most significant negative impacts of snow being dumped into the sea are probably related to increased litter. The report states that it is unlikely for snow dumping to form a significant channel through which harmful substances could end up in the marine environment. Regardless, snow dumping is still one channel through which microplastics end up in the sea. The Ministry of the Environment has also stated that there is no reason to prohibit the dumping of snow into the sea by law.
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Report by the Ministry of the Environment on dumping snow into the sea or inland water bodies as a method of urban snow management and assessment of need for legislative restrictions on the activity (PDF, in Finnish) (Link leads to external service)
We actively look for ways to reduce the environmental hazards caused by snow management. During the 2022–2023 winter season, we have sought to reduce the environmental impact with the following methods:
We clear the snow dump areas of litter once the snow melts, to prevent the litter from ending up in the environment.
We try to minimise the transport distances of snow and shorten them further with snow melting equipment. The purpose of this is to reduce the emissions from transport.
At the Hernesaari snow dump area in the Helsinki district of Länsisatama, we are trialling a bubble curtain solution to prevent the spread of litter. We will also dredge the bottom of the sea.
At the Maununneva snow dump area in the Helsinki district of Kaarela, we have installed a reed filtration system to filter out the litter, including microplastics, that end up in the inland waters and the sea.
Helsinki is committed to the protection of the Baltic Sea through the Baltic Sea Challenge (in Finnish)(Link leads to external service), initiated with the City of Turku. This programme includes almost 120 different measures for protecting the waters. The City of Helsinki's Storm Water Management Programme supports the water protection objectives.
We are also testing snow melting equipment that could partly replace the transport of snow to snow dumping areas in the future. We are testing two different snow melting systems in Jätkäsaari, an area of the Helsinki district of Länsisatama: The system being tested in the Saukonlaituri area of Jätkäsaari melts snow with the help of district heat, while the system being tested in Hernesaari primarily makes use of heat from sea water. These systems allow snow to be separated from most types of litter, such as plastics, sand and grit.
According to the City of Helsinki’s snow management principles, snow melting may be used if it offers a more cost-effective and energy-efficient solution than the transport of snow. Snow melting may also be used if needed to help manage exceptionally snowy conditions.
For the time being, snow melting is not a large-scale solution for snow management for the City of Helsinki. This is because the methods available have a large carbon footprint. In 2015, we prepared a report in which we compared different snow management options for the future. According to this report, a combination of snow dump areas similar to those currently in use was a better option than snow melting in terms of the carbon dioxide emissions generated.
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