Britain could run out of grit before winter is over

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The huge demand for salt on UK roads so far this year has led to fears that local authorities may not have enough to last the winter, despite the country having stockpiled record levels before the cold weather hit.

A report by the RAC Foundation that was delivered to Whitehall yesterday said: "Government and highway authorities may find it challenging to meet requirements for the rest of the winter."

The report, compiled by David Quarmby and based on the first bout of cold weather from Wednesday 24 November to Thursday 9 December, said that local authorities needed to work harder on spreading the salt further to make it last.

However, despite the falling levels of salt, Quarmby reserved praise for the local transport authorities, saying: "Across the sector many have coped admirably, keeping roads open and public transport running."

The report continued: "There are some good examples of local highway authorities engaging with local councils and communities on snow clearance and promoting self help using the Snow Code, and of giving good real-time information about road conditions through their websites and other media."

However, Quarmby attacked the rail system's failure to deal with the weather, saying: "I have said that the railway should not rely so much on electronic systems for passenger information and must develop robust back-up methods for keeping passengers properly informed. And the whole issue of third rail power supply south of the Thames needs to be reviewed."