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Road chiefs buy salt in bulk after Big Freeze chaos

THE National Roads Authority (NRA) is purchasing 80,000 tonnes of salt in advance of next winter -- and it has dubbed January's Big Freeze as a "lesson learned".

The authority has been elected as the national buyer of salt which will de-ice the national roads in a future cold snap.

A spokesperson told the Herald that reserve stocks are already being bought in order to cater for another 40-year event like last January's weather chaos.



Value

"We burned through 60,000 tonnes nationally. And before, we didn't purchase it, councils did the purchasing, but now the NRA is going to be the bulk buyer and we'll get better value because we're buying it in bulk.

"The NRA is going to have the capacity to store 10,000 tonnes alone as a reserve back-up. Because of last year's events, we know that we need to be prepared for another 40-year weather event."

The spokesperson admitted that it's a case of "lesson learned" and contingency plans are being put in place this summer to prevent a repeat of the chaos of last winter.

"It's lesson learned. It's an action response to last year's incident, and it'll be managed in a more coherent fashion," he said.

A whole winter's supply was used in three weeks during the cold snap, and the NRA estimated that keeping the national roads clear had cost €10m.

"Last year during the weather event, we went through an entire supply in that three week period. Now the NRA becomes the source buyer -- we'll buy directly from the source. And we're tendering for offers for the best price."

The NRA was formally asked by the Government to take a co-ordinating role in the sourcing of salt last January and currently there's a low demand, so the NRA is confident it'll get a cheaper price.

"The market for salt to melt ice doesn't exist right now in the northern hemisphere because we're in summer. So it's a very good time to buy," said the spokesperson.

"Last year we were put into the role of the big buyer. It's a co-ordinated effort to guarantee and secure supply well before the event takes place."



Replenish

The NRA allocated €7m to local authorities for gritting national roads in 2009, and topped it up with a further €3m in January.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Dublin City Council said it used approximately 2,400 tonnes of salt during the period of last winter.

"In October 2010 and in preparation for the next winter period, we will have 1,800 tonnes of salt in storage, with plans in place to replenish this salt stock as it is being used," she said.

hnews@herald.ie