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Roads: Snow and Ice

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment he has made of the (a) adequacy and (b) security of the supply of salt and other road gritting agents. (255840)

[holding answer 10 February 2009]: The Department for Transport is working with the Cabinet Office, other Government Departments, the Local Government Association, individual local authorities and the Highways Agency to identify the current capacity of the main suppliers of road salt nationally and to work with those suppliers to enable salt supplies to get to those highway authorities with the most urgent needs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much the Highways Agency has spent on grit in each of the last 10 years. (256226)

The Highways Agency does not use grit. The mineral used for the treatment of its network is road salt.

The Highways Agency's routine and winter service is undertaken by its service providers. The procurement of road salt used for the treatment of the network is a part of the lump-sum activity of these service providers. The specific amount spent on road salt is not discernable from the contracts with our service providers.

Salt usage for the strategic road network varies between 300,000-400,000 tonnes per annum and the current cost for road salt is approximately £25 per tonne.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with the (a) Highways Agency and (b) Salt Union on the distribution of salt to (i) Highways Agency depots and (ii) local authorities since 1 January 2009. (256618)

[holding answer 12 February 2009]: The Government, Highways Agency, the Local Government Agency and individual local authorities have been working closely together to help prioritise the distribution of new supplies of road salt both to the Highways Agency for the strategic road network and to local highway authorities for local roads. As a consequence of this, since the onset of the adverse weather conditions, the Department for Transport has been in regular contact with Salt Union on their delivery plans and priorities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what guidance his Department has issued to the Highways Agency on minimum salt reserves; what level of salt stocks the Highways Agency held in each week since 1 January 2009; and if he will make a statement. (256620)

[holding answer 12 February 2009]: The Highways Agency requires its service providers to hold a contractual minimum salting capability of four to six days (depending on the contract). This is based on heavy salting conditions, typically snow conditions. This requirement has been eased in recent days to reflect the adverse weather conditions.

Given the recent severe weather and pressures on road salt supplies nationwide, the Secretary of State agreed that the Highways Agency should maintain an average salting capability for the strategic road network of at least three days based on heavy salting conditions.

The following table shows the stocks held in capability days for the last seven weeks.

HA average salting capability (days)

W/C 29 December 2008 average


W/C 5 January 2009 average


W/C 12 January 2009 average


W/C 19 January 2009 average


W/C 26 January 2009 average


W/C 2 February 2009 average


W/C 9 February 2009 average