REGIONAL Development Minster Danny Kennedy has launched the Roads Service Winter Service programme and is calling on all drivers to be prepared for the challenges of winter driving.
From now until the middle of April, Roads Service has almost 300 staff and over 130 gritters on standby every night to ensure that our main roads are salted to help drivers cope with winter conditions.
Roads Service staff work to a tight schedule to ensure that over 7,000 kilometres or 4,400 miles of roads across Northern Ireland are treated with salt in around three and a half hours.
Over 800 tonnes of salt is used on average for the massive logistical undertaking of treating the entire route just once. Roads Service has ample reserves of 110,000 tonnes of salt which are topped-up regularly during the winter.
Danny Kennedy said: “With winter fast approaching Roads Service is prepared to tackle the enormous job of keeping the main roads across Northern Ireland open.
“Our main effort will be to keep the motorways and trunk roads open. We will then focus on other main roads and busy urban link roads. As we seen earlier this year, even our best efforts can be hampered by heavy and sudden falls of snow.
“In addition to treating icy roads, during prolonged periods of snow, all salt spreading machinery will be fitted with snow ploughs.
“In very deep snow, Roads Service will use its snow blowers, the latest of which can clear 1,600 tonnes of snow in an hour.
“No one can accurately predict what the weather has in store for us. However, our operations will continue until the road network is cleared, no matter how long that takes.”
The Minister added that everyone has a role to play and has calling on drivers to prepare by ensuring that their vehicles are fit for purpose.
He said: “Such a huge operation comes at a cost of up to around £80,000 every night the service is delivered.
“Once again, I want to thank the contractors and farmers who when called upon assist Roads Service in delivering our Winter Services operation. Their help on rural roads provides great assistance for those that live on more remote roads and help keep the rural community moving.”
Roads Service cannot treat every road, but it does provide support. Almost 5,000 salt bins and 50,000 grit piles have been strategically placed on roads not included on the salted network.
The Minister added: “Even with careful planning, special weather forecasting and the latest ice prediction technology, Winter Service remains a battle against the elements and no one can guarantee ice-free roads.
“Drivers have a vital part to play, prepare now, take extra care during wintry conditions especially if overtaking salt spreading machinery and expect to allow extra time for journeys. Quite simply, if the conditions dictate that you need to travel at half your normal speed, then it will take you twice as long to reach your destination.
“The advice from the Highway Code is simple, drive with care even if roads have been salted and be prepared for road conditions changing over short distances.”
Information on salting and the latest road conditions is available on: http://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: http://www.drdni.gov.uk/index/publications/publications-details.htm?docid=7582
For help and advice about coping with the challenges of winter visit: http//www.nidirect.gov.uk/winter