25 October 2010 | Lindsay Clark
By November UK authorities should be able to ensure the resilience of the road salt supply chain, according to a panel of transport experts commissioned by the government.
Their report said that by November each year local authorities and the Highways Agency should have stock for 12 days or 48 runs of gritting – a so-called benchmark for resilience.
In response to the severe British winters over the last two years, the Department for Transport commissioned a review to ensure the agencies learned lessons from the resulting disruption to transport.
Review panel member, Alan Braithwaite, chairman of LCP Consulting, which contributed to the report, said: “The supply chain is hugely dependent on the suppliers but it is also dependent on good practice at the [Highways Agency and local authority] level, to get their stock in place at the start of the season.
“The report has set the tone for local authorities to become more sophisticated at this and it has also set the tone for the suppliers to respond and the evidence is that they have responded already.”
The review panel, chaired by former head of the Strategic Rail Authority David Quarmby, said two main UK suppliers, Cleveland Potash and Salt Union, should be encouraged to continue their current initiatives to increase their capacity, through increased imports, mining activity and underground crushing and grading.
It also recommended greater monitoring of stock levels to ensure suppliers are in the right place.
Quarmby said: “The salt supply chain for highway authorities must be made more resilient, with local authorities increasing their precautionary salt stocks and suppliers responding more flexibly to demand.”