The Highways Agency does not purchase salt directly, as this is the responsibility of their contracted service providers, as part of their requirement to deliver the winter service to keep the strategic network safe and open during severe winter weather. Consequently the Highways Agency has not purchased any overseas salt over the last 12 years, except, as a result of the national salt shortages experienced over the last two winter seasons, the Highways Agency has helped facilitate the importation of overseas salt to its service providers.
In 2008-09 season, the Highways Agency helped to import approximately 58,000 tonnes of salt, with a further 127,000 tonnes imported in the 2009-10 winter season. The price paid by the Highways Agency’s service providers varies between £50-£95 per tonne, depending on the salt supplier and haulage distances.
The Highways Agency is responsible for maintaining and operating the strategic trunk road and motorway network in England on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport. Actual delivery of the maintenance activities, including winter maintenance, is carried out by the agency’s contracted service providers.
As well as delivering precautionary salt treatments and snow ploughing during severe winter weather, the agency’s service providers are required to maintain sufficient salt stocks to treat their part of the network. These activities are paid for within lump sum payments and as such, information on individual elements such as salt volume used is not routinely collected and is not therefore readily available.
Following the end of the winter maintenance period, the Highways Agency will examine the levels of salt used during periods of adverse weather to determine best practice for future years.