Overtimeban halts gritting on secondary roads
SOME cash-strapped local authorities have been forced to cut back on gritting secondary roads because of overtime bans.
The councils were urged yesterday to bring in agricultural contractors to grit these treacherous local roads during the cold snap.
Although councils have sufficient grit supplies, many are now only treating primary routes.
As a result most secondary roads are not being salted and remain in a very dangerous state.
Fine Gael called on councils to outsource an expansion of the gritting programme to agricultural contractors and help out the under-resourced councils.
Some local authorities appear to have severely reduced the number of roads being gritted due to ongoing cash flow problems. These are confining operations to main primary roads.
The councils are also warning that a prolonged arctic spell will put a severe strain on their finances.
Michael Egan, of the National Roads Authority, said yesterday that all the main national routes had been treated.
Salt and grit supplies were very good and they had taken delivery of 55,000 tonnes in the last few weeks, with other supplies due in the coming weeks.
"Normally we would expect to use 2,000 tonnes a day during bad weather. There's three times normal usage on the east coast."
Local authorities have drawn up plans identifying local routes that may need to be treated.
Mr Egan said the councils were not in a position to keep every road open.
"It (salt) has to be restricted to priority routes," he added.
There has been criticism that councils are not able to give gritters unlimited overtime during the cold crisis.
Simon Coveney, Fine Gael transport spokesman, said there had been a very significant reduction in local authority overtime budgets.
"If councils do not have the capacity in terms of numbers because of cutbacks, then. . .they should farm this out to agricultural contractors," he said.
"This is not just about the amount of salt we have. It is about the number of salt spreaders."
He also called on Transport Minister Noel Dempsey to introduce a new colour-coded route planner which would enable drivers to see precisely those roads most at risk from ice and those which had been treated.
A spokesman for Kildare County Council said the first priority were the national roads, followed by the regional roads. After that, local roads were considered. It was not practicable for any local authority to salt every kilometre of road in their respective areas.