Transport secretary Lord Adonis has said use of salt by local authorities to deal with frozen roads may have to be reduced further, following a 25% reduction by the Highways Agency, Local Government Association members and Greater London Authority last week.
In a statement to the House of Lords, Adonis said the weather was the: “Most prolonged spell of freezing conditions across the UK since December 1981. The Met Office forecast that the current very cold conditions are likely to continue across most of the country for some days longer.the worst since 1981.”
“Last Friday, I directed the Highways Agency to manage their use of salt in response to forecasts of prolonged bad weather, by reducing their daily use of salt by at least 25%. They have achieved this by taking measures such as not directly spreading salt on the hard shoulder of motorways.
“For local roads, the Local Government Association and the Mayor of London have agreed to reduce daily use by at least 25% also, recognising the importance of mutual support to keep Britain moving safely. Local authorities are taking their own decisions as to the prioritisation of supplies in their localities,” he said.
However, the continued cold weather has meant salt stocks should be further reduced, he said.
“Given the prolongation of the very cold weather, further measures are likely to be required over the next 48 hours to keep networks open. These are likely to include further steps to conserve salt, to ensure that the Highways Agency and local authorities can manage during the continuing severe weather. The Local Government Association and the government are in constant contact and we will continue to take the necessary operational decisions to keep networks open as far as possible,” he said.
Adonis last week opened the ‘Salt Cell’, which brings together central and local Government, the Local Government Association, the Met Office, the Devolved Administrations and Transport for London to advise salt suppliers on how best to distribute salt.
Adonis said the Salt Cell would meet this morning to discuss the current salt situation.
Cllr David Sparks, Chair of the Local Government Association Transport and Regeneration Board, said gritting would need to continue to maintain safe roads, but: “It is important to keep the level of salt usage under constant review to ensure that stocks do not run out. There is an audit of the nation’s salt supplies currently being carried out by the Department for Transport to check how stocks have changed since the first reduction was announced late on Friday.
“Before the government makes any decisions about future salt use, the results of the ongoing salt audit need to be analysed in full.”