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Road Salting

Volume 124: debated on Thursday 17 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what monitoring is carried out by his Department to ensure that local authorities have adequate supplies of salt, and the necessary equipment to assess the amount of salt already on the roads, and to carry out salting operations.

The Department lays down standards of salting for trunk roads. We do not monitor the salt supplies held by local authorities for use on these or local roads. Their normal practice is to order salt supplies in the spring-summer sufficient to cover a normal winter. They will order extra supplies during the winter if their stocks run low in the event of an unusually severe winter. ICI hold a large stockpile at their Cheshire mines as a reserve supply and for this winter are putting more emergency stockpiles at strategic points around the country to avoid any possible transport problems.The Department expects local authorities to have sufficient equipment to carry out salting operations on all-purpose trunk roads and local roads. For motorways, the Department has a fleet of 258 purpose-built snowplough-spreader vehicles which are garaged at 98 motorway compounds strategically placed along the motorway network. The salt for motorway use is stored at these compounds, usually in salt barns, and all the necessary equipment for loading the salt into the vehicles is provided there as well. Equipment is available which measures residual salinity on roads, but its accuracy is questionable. The Department does not use this equipment on its roads.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to ensure that local authorities have adequate financial resources to carry out the necessary salting of roads in severe weather.

The Department provides funding to local authorities acting as its motorway-trunk road agents for the winter maintenance of these roads. For this winter, the Department has made a provision of £15 million. In the event of a severe winter, the Department will make extra funding available to its agents who incur extra costs in carrying out the winter maintenance of these roads.Local authority expenditure on winter maintenance of the roads for which they are responsible is supported by block grant, which is apportioned to grant-related expenditure. There is a GRE component for winter maintenance which is based on the average number of days of air frost and snow coverage for an authority, multiplied by road lengths.