Following the launch of Roads Service Winter Programme by Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy, Northern Divisional Roads Manager Deidre Mackle has announced how the programme will work locally.
Stocks of salt are at full capacity and until the middle of April, Roads Service has 86 staff and 40 gritters on standby every night to ensure that the 2,113 kilometres, or around 1,320 miles of main roads are treated in the Northern Division of Roads Service which covers the council areas of Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine, Larne, Limavady, Londonderry and Moyle.
Deidre Mackle said: “When ice or snow is forecast our salting teams have just three and a half hours to complete the massive logistical operation that can cost around £20,000 each time it takes place.
“This year, during prolonged snow, all salt spreading machinery will be fitted with snow ploughs. Our efforts will remain the same, with the clearing of snow from motorways and the trunk roads, before moving to other main roads and the busiest urban link roads.
“In very deep snow we can deploy our snow blowers, the latest of which can shift 1,600 tonnes of snow an hour.
“The operation will continue until the road network is cleared, but even with all resources deployed, this will take time.”
Arrangements are also in place to call on contractors and farmers, to help clear blocked roads. Improved communication arrangements and priority secondary salting to rural schools that are most affected by wintery weather conditions have also been put in place.
For areas off the main salted network Roads Service will continue to provide self help salt bins and grit piles. These are available for local residents to use to help deal with snow and ice on pavements.
There is welcome news about the salting of busy town centre footways. Almost all councils are now working with Roads Service to help deliver this important service.
Asking drivers to play their part Ms Mackle added: “Even with the most careful and thorough planning, including the use of special Met. Office forecasts and the latest ice prediction technology, our Winter Service is a battle against the elements. Ice-free roads cannot be guaranteed.
“Drivers can help by taking extra care during wintry conditions. The best advice is in the Highway Code, drive with care even if roads have been salted; be prepared for road conditions changing over short distances; and take care when overtaking salt spreading machinery.”
Everyone needs to prepare for winter, and now is the time to do it.
Information on salting and the latest road conditions is available at: www.TrafficwatchNI.com
The Roads Service winter service leaflet ‘Keeping Traffic on the Move During Winter’ will be delivered to every household and Business premises over the coming weeks. The leaflet is also available free by calling 028 9054 0540 or can be downloaded from: www.drdni.gov.uk/index/publications/publications-details.htm?docid=7582
For help and advice about coping with the challenges of winter visit: www.nidirect.gov.uk/winter