26/01/2004

Roads Service prepared to deal with snowfalls

Prepared to deal with heavy snowfalls, the DRD Roads Service in Northern Ireland have been on special alert since Sunday, following an advanced warning of possible snow from the Meteorological Office.

DRD Roads Service’s, Director of Network Services, David Orr, said: “Since Saturday morning we have spread around 4,000 tonnes of salt on Northern Ireland’s main traffic routes at a cost of over a quarter of a million pounds. The salting schedule covers 4,300 miles of main roads, that’s the same as from Belfast to Moscow and back.

“If snow is forecast DRD Roads Service will salt the scheduled routes at three to four times the normal rate of spreading. And if we get a heavy fall of snow we will activate our Snow Contingency Plan.”

The plan concentrates on keeping the motorways and trunk roads clear; focus then turns to salting the other main roads. Deep accumulations of snow would see DRD Roads Service deploy 16 snowblowers alongside the usual 140 gritters and private sector contractors called in to assist with the snow clearing operation.

Throughout the winter months, from November through to March, DRD Roads Service places 160 staff on standby every night. Six duty controllers who receive weather forecasts and monitor data from DRD Roads Service's 17 weather sensor sites located across Northern Ireland also closely monitor the weather.

However, Mr Orr explained that snow would inevitably cause some traffic disruption: “Snow is very difficult to disperse because of the volume of frozen material. Frost and ice are only a few millimetres thick while snow is much deeper, especially where strong winds cause drifting. Motorists quite rightly drive more slowly in the snow and leave more distance from the vehicle in front but this very necessary action does reduce road capacity and leads to delay, especially on roads that are congested in a normal rush hour.

“In the event of heavy snowfall DRD Roads Service advises motorists to travel only if your journey is essential. Stick to the main roads as far as possible and leave plenty of time for your journey. Make sure you are prepared for delays in the very cold conditions."

Mr Orr appealed to all motorists to drive carefully, even when roads are salted.

(SP)

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