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Winters expected to continue, experts warn

The UK needs to look at salt supply arrangements as a service rather than a commodity purchase and should place additional value upon this service

Next winter could be as severe as this has been, was one of the key messages to emerge from the Snow Summit held at Stansted Airport.
Representatives of local government, the Highways Agency, Department for Transport, salt producers, and service providers met on March 24 to review road network clearance during the most severe winter in over 30 years.

Several key points were covered during the discussions:

• Those responsible for winter road maintenance should not assume that the one-in-30-years severe winter just experienced will not occur again in the near future. Subsequent heavy snowfalls in late March in Northern Ireland and Scotland reinforced the message that we must always be prepared.

• Local authority salt stock have been reduced significantly over the past 15 years as a result of milder winters and pressure on governmental budgets. Industry experts estimate that nearly a quarter less salt is now held near to the point of usage. This has drastically reduced winter resilience levels and left the country unprepared for the extreme conditions of this last winter.

• Whilst the UK has ample salt production capacity to meet the nation’s needs, it is logistically impractical to instantaneously re-supply all parts of the UK simultaneously, when inadequate local stocks have been quickly exhausted. Short-term demand to replenish stocks consumed during the severe winter conditions far outstripped normal usage.

• The UK needs to look at salt supply arrangements as a service rather than a commodity purchase and should place additional value upon this service.

The Salt Association fully supports these views and has already endorsed the findings of the 2009 UK Roads Liaison Group’s report.

The Minister of State for Transport, Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, has recently announced a review of this past winter to be led by a panel of independent experts. The Salt Association and its members fully support this plan and will work with the review panel to improve the UK’s ability to handle severe winter weather.


The Salt Association is the trade association representing UK manufacturers of salt for domestic, catering, water-softening, industrial and de-icing uses.

Further information from:
The Salt Association, 015395 68005 or -

The findings of the 2009UK Roads Liaison Group’s report, included the following:

• Holding greater stocks of salt at the end-user locations at the beginning of the winter in order to increase resilience.
• Establishing national / regional stockpiles of salt to further improve resilience and reduce the impact of logistics issues during weather events affecting large areas of the UK.
• Review of salt spreading equipment by each highway authority to ensure that salt is being applied most efficiently with minimal waste.
• Establishing collaborative plans between neighbouring authorities, including mutual aid plans and potentially sharing of salt depots and stocks.