White stuff on its way to Hackney?

Salt mountain unveiled as TfL and Hackney Council claim their preparations for this year’s cold snap are well underway

The snow forecast in London didn’t materialise at the weekend - but the big freeze gripping the country is set to get worse, meaning it’s inevitable we will see some of the “white stuff” at some point.

Arctic conditions brought the capital to a standstill last January, when the rail network and roads were closed after heavy snowfall.

But fear not, for Transport for London (TfL) and Hackney Council claim their preparations for this year’s cold snap are well underway.

A 20 foot high mountain of rock salt to protect London’s roads was revealed last Thursday (November 25) at the newly created London Strategic Salt Reserve in Dagenham, east London.

The 27,000 tonne salt reserve complements the 90,000 tonnes being assembled across London by TfL alongside local borough councils, and the figures represent an increase of almost 60 per cent compared to last year.

The plan is that in the event of another severe winter, this “strategic reserve” would be supplement the stocks held by all highway authorities across London, to keep the capital moving.

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Referred to as “grit”, rock salt lowers the freezing point of moisture on the road surface, so it stops ice forming and causes existing ice or snow to melt.

Hackney Council has 300 tonnes of salt for gritting roads stored at Brimsdown depot in Enfield, and 500 tonnes to make the pavements safe for pedestrians stored at Millfields Waste Depot in Clapton.

A council spokesman said: “We have more than three times the salt available than at the beginning of winter last year, with more on order to replenish stocks throughout the season.

“In addition, we have invested in new equipment and salt bins, and are currently looking at a range of options to best support our schools and residents during the winter,” he added.

“This includes the introduction of pick up points for small quantities of salt to be used by residents during severe weather conditions.”

The salt used to melt ice and add traction on the UK’s snow-covered byways comes not from the sea but from three main mines - the Salt Union’s Winsford Rock Salt Mine in Cheshire, Cleveland Potash in Teesside and the Irish Salt Mining and Exploration Company in County Antrim.

De-icing or gritting salt is nothing like the white grains we use to season food. Made from crushed rock salt carved out of underground mines, it is brownish in colour and resembles gravel.