Page last updated at 17:44 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Gritting cuts conserve road salt

People pushing their car in the snow
The snow has caused major travel disruption

Gritting operations on Oxfordshire's roads are being cut back to conserve stocks of road salt, the county council has announced.

Officials said supplies were not exhausted, but making cuts now would mean priority routes could be salted during the continuing cold spell.

The heavy snowfall overnight again caused traffic chaos, with the M40 and A40 worst hit.

The bad weather also led to more than 300 school closures on Friday.

Oxfordshire County Council said arrangements to cut the amount of gritting had been made by other councils in response to a national salt shortage. More salt has been ordered.

Snowploughs would still be used regardless of which roads are gritted, the council said.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth said: "We don't want to end up in a situation whereby we run out of salt and have to leave the whole network untreated.

"By scaling back like this, we can ensure that the most important routes remain treated and it buys us time until more deliveries arrive.

Gritter on the M3 in Hampshire on Friday morning
Gritters were sent to the M3 near Basingstoke on Friday morning

"We will re-assess our situation as we go along based on the amount of salt that is being delivered to our depots."

There were also localised power cuts for homes across Oxfordshire when supplies were cut in the Fringford Heath and Charlbury areas on Friday morning.

Electricity supplies were restored by early evening.

Earlier on Friday many buses were cancelled, but the Oxford Tube service to London is running and the Oxford Bus Company said it was trying to run "as normal a service as possible."

Stagecoach has started running some services again. It is serving Barton, Blackbird Leys, Rose Hill, Greater Leys, Cutteslowe, Kidlington, Bicester, Witney and Carterton.

But there is still no service to Wheatley, most of Witney, Banbury, Chipping Norton, Charlbury or Woodstock.

More snow is forecast and disruptions are expected to last through the weekend.

Operations cancelled

First Great Western said there was a reduced service between Henley and London Paddington because of the weather.

A series of crashes left the M40 blocked in places and the A40 near Oxford was said to be impassable for a time on Friday morning.

Oxford Radcliffe hospitals called off non-emergency operations and out-patient clinics.

Oxford Brookes University said its Harcourt Hill and Wheatley campuses were closed, but the Headington campus was open.

Shrivenham Farmers' Market on the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border will not open on Saturday because of the weather.

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