Review recommends Government imports quarter of million tonnes of road salt for next winter

An Independent Review of how our transport systems coped with the last two winters has today recommended measures to get national Government, local councils and the public in England ready for the coming cold season.

The Review, commissioned by Transport Ministers and chaired by transport expert David Quarmby recommends in its Interim Report:

The Review’s interim report makes 17 recommendations covering highway authorities’ winter maintenance, the road salt supply chain, public expectations, weather forecasting and self-help by the public.  It focuses particularly on the need to keep our road network moving in the event of snow and ice next winter.  

Speaking about the Review, David Quarmby said:

“Last year, we just managed to keep traffic moving on the nation’s roads due to the concerted effort of local authorities, national Government and the road salt suppliers.  But we came perilously close to running out of salt and many people found the winter months very difficult.

“We can’t know when such a severe winter will hit us again, but we can take steps as a nation, to ensure that when it does, we will cope better.  This report highlights the short-term need for national Government and local councils to ensure that they have plans in place, and enough road salt, to deal with the possibility of another severe winter in 2010/11. 

“Our Final Report in the autumn will deal with a longer term strategy for road salt, and report on the rail and aviation sectors”

The Review concludes that England could be up to half a million tonnes or more short of salt were next winter to have the same weather pattern as the last.  It therefore recommends an import of 250,000 tonnes before the winter season starts, to be stored and managed by the Highways Agency on behalf of the government. 

This would be available to local highway authorities, at a premium price, both to reflect the costs of importing and storing it and to provide an incentive to authorities to build up their own stocks.   

At the end of December, salt usage and stocks should be reassessed, the latest weather forecasts reviewed and decisions made whether further additional strategic supplies are required, in addition to what the UK producers can supply.

The Review Panel was also concerned to hear that people were put off from tackling the snow and ice in front of their houses last winter because of apparent confusion over possible liability.  David Quarmby said:

“People and local communities want to be able to take practical steps to clear snow and ice without fear of litigation.  The confusion which arose last year was unhelpful.  We are recommending a simple code of practice, to be drawn up by Government, distributed by local authorities and promoted to householders and businesses.  This would set clear advice for self-help, and - if observed - guard the public against negligence claims.”

The Panel’s Final Report, covering the rail and aviation sectors, a longer term strategy for the road salt supply chain, and the economics of winter resilience will be published in the autumn. 

Notes for editors

The Final Report covering rail and aviation, and a longer term strategy for road salt, will be published in the autumn.

The Panel conducting the Review are:

The Review took evidence from a wide variety of sources, face-to-face and in writing, including salt suppliers, local authority representatives, national Government, the Highways Agency, weather forecasters and maintenance contractors.

 The Panel also visited salt mines and highway authorities’ salt depots. 

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