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Councils urged to share de-icing salts

Councils must use de-icing salt more efficiently to prevent winter transport chaos, an independent review said this week.

The government’s Winter Resilience Review doubled the recommended benchmark for salt stocks and said local authorities should cut amounts of salt used for de-icing and share stocks with neighbouring councils.

The review was commissioned by the Department for Transport after severe weather caused chaos on the roads last winter. It was produced by a committee comprising RAC Foundation chairman David Quarmy, former Cambridgeshire County Council environmental services director Brian Smith and former Virgin Trains chief executive Chris Green.

The committee said the benchmark for salt stocks should be 48 gritter runs - sweeps of roads in each local authority area. Severe weather requires up to four runs per day, but milder weather may only require one daily run, said Quarmby, who chaired the review.

The review said councils should make better use of stocks and capacity by making “mutual aid arrangements” with neighbouring councils to share storage space or trade salt stocks. “There are huge varieties in storage capacity,” said Quarmby. Those with capacity above 48 runs “should make sure they’re comfortably above [the benchmark]”.

Cutting amounts used in each run was also recommended. Salt is usually spread at 20g/m², but Quarmby said spreading salt more thinly “did not seem to impact the effectiveness with which highways were cleared”.

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