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'More salt needed', winter review finds
The Government should import a quarter of a million tonnes of road salt if it is to prepare the country for another winter as bad as this year's, an independent review has found.
And all local authorities should review their winter planning, undertake consultation on which roads need treating, and consider whether treatment could be effective with less salt.
The recommendations come in the interim report of the Winter Resilience Review, which was commissioned by former transport secretary Lord Adonis to study how transport systems in England coped with the last two winters.
Among its early conclusions the review, headed by RAC Foundation chairman David Quarmby, finds that England could be half a million tonnes or more short of road salt if winter 10/11 follows the same weather pattern as winter 09/10 - which was the UK's most severe in 30 years. It recommends that half of this amount is imported by the Government before winter sets in, and is re-sold by the Highways Agency according to demand from local authorities.
However, the review recommends that salt from the store be sold "at a premium price", to encourage local highway authorities to build up their own stocks.
Freezing weather in early January left councils with salt shortages, leading the Government to step in and impose salt rationing.
Announcing the interim report, 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," he added.
Quarmby also described as "unhelpful", confusion that arose last year over potential legal liabilities that could attach themselves to householders who cleared snow and ice from in front of their property. The review recommends that the Government draws up a code of practice that would set out clear advice and guard the public against negligence claims.
Councillor David Sparks, vice-chairman of the Local Government Association, said that councils had already been learning lessons from last winter, and that authorities were already replenishing salt stocks and ordering gritting lorries.
"Taking the right action now, in the height of summer, can make all the difference when the dark days of winter make a return," he added.
The panel is due to publish its final report, which also considers the rail and aviation industries, in the autumn.
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