09/11/2005

Roads service prepares for severe winter

Following the Met Office's early warning that Northern Ireland may be in for the coldest winter in a decade, the Roads Service has said it is preparing for the worst.

David Orr, Roads Service's Director of Network Services, revealed that every night from now until the middle of next April, over 260 people will be placed on standby to salt main roads, helping drivers to cope with wintry conditions.

On top of this over 60,000 tonnes of salt have already been bought and are stored in depots across the country. When ice or snow are forecast 120 gritters can salt nearly 7,000 kilometres (4,300 miles) of main roads in just over three hours. However, this logistic feat costs over £75,000 each time it takes place.

Mr Orr warned that even with the most careful planning and the use of special Met Office forecasts, Winter Service is really a battle against the elements and ice-free roads can not be guaranteed.

"There is always the risk of rain washing off the salt just before a freeze, and this, together with the Met Office's target of 80% accuracy in forecasting ice and snow and the fact that it takes three hours to salt a route, means that motorists have to play their part by taking great care during wintry conditions," he said.

"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 gritters."

In very deep snow, Roads Service will use its 13 snow blowers, the latest of which can shift 1,600 tons of snow an hour. Arrangements are also in place to enlist the help of contractors (including farmers) to clear blocked roads.

A winter service leaflet is also available to help inform the public about winter driving and is available by calling 02890 540540 or from the website at www.roadsni.gov.uk.

(MB/SP)

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