06/01/2010

True Grit Needed To Beat Freeze: SDLP

A local politician has called for more action to ensure that rural roads and pavements in built-up areas are gritted.

Even though the Roads Service had 134 gritting lorries out overnight, battling to keep over 4,000 miles of roads open and safe for traffic, SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh Dominic Bradley is calling on Roads Minister Conor Murphy to co-ordinate efforts between the Department of Regional Development and local councils to ensure that rural roads and pavements in built-up areas are gritted.

"The present cold-snap has left many people in both in rural areas and built-up areas feeling isolated and home-bound because of the treacherous state of rural roads and the pavements in the built-up areas.

"In the rural areas many roads not on the schedule have been left untreated and are treacherous to walk or drive on.

"Older people in particular but not exclusively have been unwilling to venture out because of the danger of injury. The same has been true in built-up areas where pavements too have been left untreated," said Mr Bradley last night.

"It is not good enough for the Roads Service to dismiss rural dwellers by saying that their roads are not on the schedule.

"Rural people also pay their road taxes and are entitled to a decent service. A little bit of imagination on behalf of roads service and a degree of co-operation with local councils and the farming organisations could help to ensure that rural roads remain safe to use for all," he fumed.
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"Councils cannot simply wash their hands regarding the treatment of pavements in built-up areas.

"The commercial and domestic rate payers deserve a service which will ensure that they can walk safely on the pavements at a time like this; many people have been afraid to leave their homes for fear of injury and hospitals are reporting huge increases in fracture injuries.

"Once again a little co-operation with Roads Service could help to tackle this problem," he insisted, calling on Conor Murphy to "show some leadership on this issue" and to set up structures which will help ensure that people in rural and urban are not forced to remain housebound during severe weather.

However, gritting Northern Ireland's roads in severe weather conditions is already costing £150,000 a night, the Roads Service has said.

Usually gritting the road network costs £75,000, but Roads Service said they were currently "double salting" and the organisation has said today that its entire budget for the year is close to being used up already.

Also, it has emerged that an unprecedented number of patients requiring surgery after falling on ice has led to a NI health trust having to cancel several planned operations.

Altnagelvin Hospital has treated 102 people who required surgery after slipping on ice in the past fortnight.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust has postponed 26 planned operations as a result.

All of NI's five health trusts have said they are under pressure and it is affecting many hospital waiting lists.

See: Freeze Causing Chaos

(BMcC/GK)

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