‘No cuts to gritting services’ - Transport NI

A snow plough and gritter in action at Derry's main Bus terminal in Foyle Street early on Wednesday morning. DER0215MC033

A snow plough and gritter in action at Derry's main Bus terminal in Foyle Street early on Wednesday morning. DER0215MC033

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Transport NI officials said there has been no cuts to their gritting service on local roads this year.

The body- formerly Roads Service- said teams were now working round the clock in many areas to make routes accessible across the North West.

The assurances follows some complaints by local people on social media that the official response to the winter gritting has not been sufficient.

There have also been fears that cuts to the Department for Regional Development’s budget, which has resulted in left thousands of broken street lights in Derry not being fixed,might also have affected the department’s winter services.

A TransportNI spokesperson told the Journal on Wednesday: “The Winter Service programme is fully resourced and there has been no reduction in services.

“In many areas our teams have been working around the clock battling against severe weather conditions in efforts to keep roads passable.”

Earlier on Wednesday morning, Transport NI officials issued an update stating that because of fresh falls of snow “it has been necessary for staff to work around the clock with gritting and ploughing affected routes.

“All routes are presently considered passable with care. Motorists are advise to exercise extreme caution when travelling.”

Salting of main roads was under way from 7pm last night, with snow ploughs drafted in for higher routes.

In an alert issued by Transport NI at the time, officials warned of “compacted snow/ ice on steeper gradients around Derry City with traffic queues”.

“Additional resources have been deployed to address the problem. External contractor resources deployed as required,” the report stated.

At the start of this winter, Transport Minister Danny Kennedy said that there would be 300 staff and over 120 gritters on standby to ensure the main roads across the north are salted to help drivers to cope with wintry conditions. Gritting the main roads across the north costs in the region of £80,000 per night.

Mr Kennedy said at the time: “A large number of these gritters have been replaced this season to improve the reliability in this important service. Salt barns and stockpiles have also been filled to capacity and TransportNI is now holding stocks of almost 110,000 tonnes of salt.”

The roll-out of the winter service operation continues to be a massive logistical undertaking that involves salting around 7,000 kilometres of main roads in just over three hours, across Northern Ireland, at a cost of approximately £80,000 per night.