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Highways Agency and councils to cut salt usage by a further 25% as supplies run out

The Highways Agency and local authorities are to cut salt usage by another 25% as a drastic measure to conserve salt stocks and help manage supplies in order to help keep the country running during the continuing winter weather period.

This reduction is in addition to the 25% cut in salt usage which came into effect last Friday.

It follows an audit of salt stocks completed on Monday and an update of weather predictions from the Met Office. As a result, ministers have called for further salt conservation measures to ensure that the essential national and local road network can receive necessary salt supplies to remain open for the remainder of the winter.

The Highways Agency has been directed to conserve the maximum possible salt usage each day, consistent with maintaining the continued safe operation of the national motorway and trunk road network. The Agency said it could conserve significantly more salt usage each day.

Highways Agency network operations director Derek Turner said: ‘We are now experiencing the most prolonged spell of severe weather since December 1981, more prolonged than last February, which was the worst winter in 18 years.

“We will be reducing our salt usage further, following a wholesale revision of our detailed treatment regime. This includes reducing treatment rates when ploughing snow by 50%, along with measures previously announced, including not directly treating the hard shoulder.

“The measures we are taking reflect the need to conserve salt stocks to improve our resilience to handle any further deterioration in the weather both locally and nationally.”

Councils are also being asked to conserve significantly more than the 25% agreed last week by similarly reviewing their salt spreading strategy and prioritising local networks as necessary. In aggregate, these measures will need to conserve between 40% and 50% compared to the levels of usage before last Friday. 

On this basis, ministers expect salt supplies to be sustainable throughout the period of snow and extreme cold weather, as well as to retain the ability to help any who get into difficulty and avoid individual councils running out.

As and when the weather begins to improve, priority will be given to relieving the pressure on councils.

Significant additional imports, ordered by the Highways Agency, are expected to arrive later this month in order to increase overall reserves.

Readers' comments (1)

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  • Given the salt shortages this year, I can't help but think that there may be more optimal strategies for salting than simply treating the road network in a hierarchical fashion.

    The key areas to salt should surely be those areas where grip is most likely to be required (and impaired in snowy/icy conditions) - at junctions, crossings, and gradients.

    Level carriageways should not need as much salting between such areas, and their salting could be reduced accordingly.

    Furthermore, I've seen many accidents recently where vehicles had skidded on ice on an unsalted side road, careerring across the junction onto the main road. In this case the highway authority had salted their primary routes correctly, but by failing to salt into the junction on the side roads had failed in keeping the primary routes safe.

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