Transport Secretary: 'Public should access grit and salt'

The public should have access to grit and salt supplies to help clear roads, the Transport Secretary suggested today as the worst December weather for 19 years continued.

With icy weather warnings in place across much of the country, Philip Hammond said people should have access to supplies so they can tackle roads and pavements which are not treated by councils.



Forecasters said the prolonged cold weather and snowfall is the worst for December since 1981, with the Christmas period also likely to see frost, ice and snow showers.



Severe weather warnings were in place across Scotland, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and Humber and East Midlands.



Mr Hammond told BBC Breakfast: "In many cases people would like to have the opportunity to have access to grit and salt supplies so that on roads that are not on the council's gritting route they can... make the pavements a bit easier, make it a bit easier for them to get out of their driveways.



"People have always dug their way out of their own driveways... and I would encourage people who are able to do that kind of thing to continue doing it for themselves and for neighbours who are perhaps less able to."



He added that there was no need to call in the Army in England because councils were still able to call contractors if they needed help clearing roads.



Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the Army helped emergency services on Monday and that Edinburgh Council had requested personnel to help clear roads.



Last night temperatures dropped to minus 18C at Shap Fell in Cumbria, while Edinburgh saw minus 15C, and the Manchester area minus 10C.



Met Office forecaster John Hammond said: "December has got off to a very cold start. The last time we saw prolonged cold weather in December with such low temperatures and this amount of snow fall was 1981."



Temperatures will drop beyond minus 10C again tonight in parts of Scotland and the North East, with the mercury across the country dipping below zero.



Motorists were warned to watch out for ice on untreated roads.



The forecaster continued: "Tomorrow temperatures will start to creep up above freezing, with 3-5C in a number of areas. It will be a fine, dry day for many.



"There will be something of a recovery of the course of the weekend with 7/8C in some places. We haven't seen those sorts of temperatures for a while.



"But overnight temperatures will still be quite low and ice will still be a problem, especially in the mornings.



"Next week the north easterly winds will bring in the cold weather once more with an increasing risk of snow showers, especially in northern and eastern parts of the UK.



"It's going to stay cold for much of the rest of the month with widespread risk of ice, frost and snow showers."



Last night hundreds of cars were stranded on snowbound roads for a second night as temperatures plunged towards minus 20C.



Drivers across central Scotland had been forced to abandon their vehicles after the wintry weather brought the country's busiest highways to a halt.



Transport Scotland advised drivers in the country's central belt to make only "essential journeys" today.



The agency said "significant" overnight progress had been made towards reopening those parts of the network still affected by the conditions, but the westbound M8 between junctions one to five remained closed.



As the big freeze kept its grip on the country, more than 100 vehicles were also trapped on an exposed route in North Yorkshire last night when a sudden heavy snow shower came in.



Police said all the cars stuck on the A171 near Whitby were released overnight in a joint operation between officers and snow ploughs.



A North Yorkshire force spokesman said there were no injuries and all the drivers "were recovered without incident".



The weather was also causing delays and cancellations across the train network, and airports including Glasgow and Edinburgh were warning of possible delays to flights.

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