Motorists may face more snow chaos next winter unless the Government acts now on damning new criticism.
Local authorities have told a House of Commons enquiry on the severe weather that Britain came close to a crisis as a result of poor government planning which left salt reserves dangerously low.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils across the country, told the Transport Select Committee: “It is clear that the fundamental problems with the salt supply chain still exist and continue to threaten resilience to winter weather.” Their written evidence added: “If we were to experience another prolonged severe winter, it is questionable whether the systems in place would have been sufficient.”
It has also been revealed that had Britain experienced another period of prolonged winter weather in the first months of 2011, it could have run out of salt and grit supplies. Answers to parliamentary questions show that the country used almost 1 million tonnes of salt coping with the snow and ice in November and December 2010, leaving less than 700,000 tonnes in reserve for the remainder of the winter.
The Government spent much of the winter with its head in the sand, claiming that the systems for keeping Britain’s roads open were working fine. We have now learnt how close those systems came to breaking down, which would have been disastrous for families and businesses in the Rother Valley and across the country. I have written to Rotherham Borough Council to ask how close they came to running out of salt and what lessons they can learn from the severe weather.
Ministers need to act now to ensure that there are functioning distribution systems and adequate supplies of salt in place, so road users are not placed at risk next winter.