Britain's vanishing stocks of grit are set to dwindle further as more blizzards sweep in and temperatures plummet again.
With no end yet in sight to the freezing weather, emergency measures have already been put in place to reduce the 60,000 tonnes used each day by councils across the country.
Local authorities have been forced to cut their use of grit salt by a quarter so stocks last and the Highways Agency has decided not to grit the hard shoulder of motorways in an effort to prioritise supplies.
Stocks will be monitored closely, with the national situation reassessed at the highest level on Tuesday when the Government's "Salt Cell" next meets to direct the distribution of new supplies.
The situation has led to Tories accusing the Government of "utter failure".
Shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman said: "This is an admission of utter failure. The lessons of last February's extreme weather have not been learnt.
"The Government has failed to build up a strategic Highways Agency reserve and Labour ministers have sat on their hands instead of putting measures in place to safeguard grit supplies. The Government appears to be rapidly losing control of the situation."
Her comments were rejected by Transport Minister Lord Adonis, who held a meeting on Thursday with Prime Minister Gordon Brown as well as representatives of the Highways Agency, Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies and the National Grid.
With the UK's two domestic salt suppliers working at full capacity, imports are on order from the Mediterranean and the US. But the first imports are not due to arrive until January 21.
The Local Government Association, which represents town halls, said councils would take "prudent measures" to reduce salt usage while protecting safety and vital services, including reducing gritting to primary road networks, increasing the sharing of salt between neighbouring councils and reducing the amount of salt in treatments.
LINK wirralglobe uk national news Fresh grit fear as freeze continues