Towering Tower Hamlets salt mountain ready to shed grit if it snows

A gritty mountain of industrial salt is being stacked in a huge barn on the Thames Waterfront ready if the winter snow comes.

Some 1,800 tonnes of grit has been stored by Tower Hamlets council ready to sprinkle onto the streets of London’s East End.

“We have 1,800 tonnes in our barn,” a council depot official explained. “The most we have ever used in a winter is 800 tonnes—so this should be plenty.”

The council has secured good supplies of salt at the Leamouth depot near the Blackwall Tunnel, with a cold snap expected by the end of the week.

But Town Hall officials warn it may have to share what salt it has with other local authorities if there is a shortage across London.

“We may be asked to reduce the salt we spread, a Town Hall spokesman explained. “It could mean reducing the length of roads and pavements we grit.”

Staff are getting forecasts from the London Meteorological Office four times a day, plus a five-day forecast for long-term planning.

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Road sweepers will also grit pavements, giving priority outside hospitals, clinics and GP surgeries—then schools, care homes, day centres, children’s centres, pharmacies, public libraries and around busy public transport areas.

A fleet of gritter lorries is on standby ready to mobilise if overnight snow is forecast. They are responsible for all side streets, while Transport for London looks after main roads and bus routes.

What London mayor Boris Johnson doesn’t want is a repeat of five years ago when authorities began running out of grit—and steam—as the snows fell. It hit public transport with buses unable to get out of the depot, including Bow Garage, because of icy roads which hadn’t yet been gritted.