Wintry showers lead to ‘virtual standstill’

The snow clad 'Celebrate' sculpture by Maurice Harron in the Creggan estate yesterday (Picture: Hugh Gallagher)
The snow clad 'Celebrate' sculpture by Maurice Harron in the Creggan estate yesterday (Picture: Hugh Gallagher)

The Department for Infrastructure has defended its response to the current winter showers following criticism that the city had been “brought to a virtual standstill”.

SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan yesterday wrote to Departmental officials calling for more to be done in preparation for and during cold snaps.

He was speaking as treacherous conditions were reported on roads across the north west from Sunday into Monday as the region witnessed the most significant snowfall of the winter.

Yesterday morning there were reports of cars getting into difficulty on roads across Derry, Limavady, Strabane and Donegal areas. Hundreds of local children had unexpected snow days as several schools were closed, while the gates were also shut at local cemeteries and recycling centres for a time.

Mr Durkan said: “While I appreciate the heroic efforts of Transport NI workers who have been working round the clock in freezing and dangerous conditions, it is clear that more needs to be done.

“Many people have been contacting me over the past while with reports of ungritted roads and empty gritboxes. The result is a city brought to a virtual standstill. Children can’t get to school, people can’t get to work and carers cannot get to visit vulnerable people.”

While commending volunteers who have been helping to grit local roads, Mr Durkan said he had written to the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Infrastructure outlining his concerns and asking for a review of the winter services programme.

A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson responded yesterday: “Salting of the scheduled road network has been ongoing since yesterday [Sunday] morning and continued overnight and again today, with snow ploughs also in operation.

“However, despite the best efforts of the Department there is no guarantee of ice free roads even after salting as showers can wash salt off the road and ice may form.

“The Department provides salt boxes and salt piles off the main salted network for use by the public on a self-help basis. Where necessary these will be replenished as soon as practicable.

“The Department’s Trafficwatch and Road Safety teams will continue to offer advice and guidance via social media to all road users, to help the public prepare for winter driving conditions and plan their route. Motorists can access this information at www.trafficwatchni.com which can also be followed on Twitter.

“Road users are reminded to exercise caution when travelling, particularly when driving on untreated roads.”