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Saturday 25 November 2017

Gritting their teeth to keep routes open

Paul Melia and Conor Kane

WHO spares a thought for the early-morning, late-night souls tasked with distributing the grit and salt?

For Waterford Co Council gritter driver Pat Fitzgerald, being on-call over Christmas and the New Year meant no possibility of making family plans or enjoying nights out.

"It could be 6pm, 10pm or 3am when a shower of rain, or a slight thaw followed by plummeting temperatures, would make driving conditions hazardous," he said.

Paul Nolan, a roads superintendent with Dublin City Council, says that a team of 22 people are responsible for keeping the capital's roads ice-free.

The teams have worked on 15 of the last 19 days.

"We have four gritters on the southside, and nine for the city," he said. "The gritters would be out 30 to 35 times in a normal winter.

"Normally we have 1,350 tonnes of grit stored. We would use on average 90 tonnes a night. Because we were out continuously, and because we had snowfalls, you have to double up to 180 tonnes.

"Basically, we're after going through our stocks. We've some coming in which will tide us over the weekend. We have 60 tonnes at the moment with a mixture of grit and rocksalt.

"Pure rocksalt is normally used. We're now mixing grit with it, but it compacts and it doesn't melt the ice. It also causes problems later on because it's grit on the road which is washed into gullies.

"We do about 320km a night of national primary routes, then bus routes through estates. Each gritter holds up to five tonnes which last an hour, depending on the rate of spread.

"The snow and the time it comes is another problem. Our main problem on Wednesday was the snow came in the afternoon. Everyone panicked and got into their cars to go home, which meant we couldn't grit as we were stuck in traffic. If the snow came at 8pm we could grit as it come down. The best time is when the snow is falling."

Irish Independent

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