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Massive grit order ahead of Big Freeze

A massive order of 110,000 tonnes of rock salt is on its way from North Africa in case the country is gripped by another big freeze this year.

The order will ensure that Ireland has 150,000 tonnes of salt for roads this winter -- three times the usual amount.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) says it has ordered 70,000 tonnes for national roads in addition to 80,000 tonnes of salt which was left over from last year's stocks, and 40,000 extra tonnes for the regional and local road network.

The country will be fully prepared by October when the last of the salt stocks is expected to arrive, said the NRA's spokesman.

He added that the 150,000 tonnes is more than is needed to de-ice the country's national roads if last year's weather conditions are to be repeated.

"The normal amount needed is between 50,000 and 60,000 tonnes but in severe winters like the last two we used between 100,000 and 110,000."

The spokesman said even though the NRA has purchased a certain amount for local authorities, they should still acquire their own stocks.

"We have more than enough for this year. And on top of that, we were asked by the Irish Government to buy an additional 40,000 tonnes for local authorities and that will arrive into September and October.

"It doesn't preclude the local authorities from purchasing their own (supply) for local regional needs. It was a Government purchase on their behalf, for key local and regional roads."

The NRA bought the majority of last year's stock this time last year, but it says it bought earlier this year for better rates.

It is understood that the NRA was able to purchase 40,000 tonnes for the local authorities because of the cheaper rate it received for the salt stocks.

"We're not purchasing at peak season so we got competitive bids on it," said the spokesman.