Fresh supplies of rock salt on the way

A CONTAINER ship laden with salt has this morning set off from the north east bound for Suffolk to replenish the county's rapidly diminishing stock.

Laurence Cawley

A CONTAINER ship laden with salt has this morning set off from the north east bound for Suffolk to replenish the county's rapidly diminishing stock.

It is expected to arrive on Monday morning and Suffolk County Council last night moved to reassure residents that it had enough salt to grit the roads until then.

The county council said it would continue to use its salt supplies “prudently” until the container arrives and said its gritting operation, which is being staffed in rolling 24-hour shift patterns, would be treating top priority routes and occasionally elsewhere as and if needed.

The county council last night confirmed there was a slim possibility that the salt cargo might have to be surrendered to other areas of the country deemed in greater need, because a body called Salt Cell, which includes the Department for Transport and the Local Government Association, is now active.

Salt Cell, the county council said, could request some or all of the salt stock for use elsewhere.

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“We have no control over it,” a council spokeswoman said. “Whether we are going to be asked to be involved by Salt Cell is something we would not know until we were asked.”

She said as things currently stood the cargo was coming to Suffolk for use in Suffolk.

“We are extending our helpline over the weekend and our highways guys will be working straight over the weekend as though it's a normal day.”

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: “With the Met Office forecasting bad weather for the next fortnight, there will continue to be exceptional demands on salt supply for the foreseeable future.

“The Department for Transport has convened 'Salt Cell', which will provide advice to the salt companies on how to prioritise their deliveries and facilitate mutual aid agreements.”

A spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) said: “DfT has been actively and regularly monitoring the supply and the stock level of salt across the UK.

“To help ensure that stocks of salt get to where they are most needed we are working with the Highways Agency and the Local Government Association to advise on national priorities for salt deliveries.

“Alongside this, mutual aid arrangements can help to relieve areas which are experiencing particularly tight stocks of salt.”

A Suffolk police spokeswoman said: “Drivers should only make journeys that are essential and should proceed with caution on all surfaces, treated or untreated.”