Sunday 25 February 2018

No more slip-ups... we're getting to grips with ice

Treacy Hogan

Other countries expect harsh winters, and plan accordingly.

They plan for the worst and hope for the best.

In Ireland, we plan for the best, and practically always get the worst.

We don't do flooding or icy roads very well. In fact, the response by our local authorities has been pretty appalling on both fronts.

But now it seems some common sense is about to take hold.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) has been put in charge of sourcing adequate supplies of salt to try to keep the main roads open, effectively sidelining the local authorities who hitherto operated a pretty poor ad-hoc arrangement.

The furore that greeted the disclosure that the councils had run out of salt and motorists would have to take their chances on deadly, icy roads finally led to a solution.

The NRA is sourcing 80,000 tonnes of salt. The councils will be obliged to maintain 10 days' supply, while the NRA will hold on to a back-up supply of a further 10,000 tonnes.

However, one flaw in the new system is the overemphasis on main roads.

Yes, they are the main arteries of the country and must be kept open at all cost.

But what about the thousands of kilometres of local and regional roads that remained treacherous when the salt ran out last December? Serious crashes occurred on these dangerous surfaces.

The councils might argue they were caught on the hop with the prolonged spell of awful weather, but surely it behoves them to have proper contingency plans in place.

The NRA is now in charge, so the councils can stop bellyaching about not having enough money and get on with the job.

No one knows what kind of winter is in store for us.

But the councils must devise proper action plans to deal with all of the main, regional and local roads that need gritting, not to mention the footpaths to stop elderly people needing unnecessary hip replacements.

Irish Independent

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