| 3°C Dublin

Only a day's worth of grit is now left in city

Dublin city is on the verge of a total emergency as salt supplies dwindle to critical levels.

Another heavy snowfall could plunge the city into chaos, the Dublin City Council transport manager admitted today as he reported that there was less than a day's supply of salt left to grit city streets.

"At the moment we don't have the salt -- that's now the critical factor," said Michael Phillips.

Yesterday a single heavy snowfall brought the city to a complete standstill, halting buses and planes and leaving motorists facing hours of driving on treacherous roads to make even short journeys home.

Mr Phillips said they were trying to conserve salt supplies for the main routes in the city. Since yesterday they had used two days' supply and had less than one day's supply left.

They were waiting for a delivery today but the deliveries tended to be 60-70 tonnes when they needed 100 tonnes a day.

Mr Phillips defended Dublin City Council against a hail of criticism over yesterday's chaos.

Gritters had been out from 3.30am but as cars came onto the streets it was difficult to continue spreading the mixtur, he said.

At the time the heavy snow shower hit in the early afternoon, the council had five gritters available but it was almost impossible to move through the busy city streets.

There were extraordinary scenes at the time of some streets being clogged with cars, scarcely able to move because of the surface conditions.

Traffic quickly built up as thousands of commuters tried to make it home.

Mr Phillips said over the 10 days of Christmas, 1,000 tonnes of grit had been spread and up to lunch time yesterday they were coping. They were at the point of going out to suburbs to grit pavements when the heavy snowfall came.


But he rejected a suggestion that the army be brought in - as it was in a weather crisis in 1982 - and said the critical need now was for additional salt which would be conserved for the main access routes.

Seven gritting teams had worked overnight around the city, and in Fingal a full team was out putting grit on primary routes and low grade sand on some other routes.

The National Roads Authority has also warned that main roads may have to close over the comings days as other local authorities run out of grit. Dublin Bus services, which were suspended last night, were back in operation with "good services on the main bus corridors but restrictions in estates".

Spokesman Paddy Doherty said today they had to make a safety call last night because the compacted sleet was like a sheet of glass and also because of the huge volume of traffic as people evacuated the city.

Today areas of Lucan, Castleknock, Clondalkin and Leixlip were causing particular problems. Fifteen minute updates were being published on their website www.dublinbus.ie.

Bus Eireann had to suspend some services in the Dundalk and Drogheda areas but the rest of their services were operating with some delays.

School bus services were being provided where possible to any school which had decided to remain open but they could not operate, for safety reasons, on some minor roads.

There was no school bus service in Wexford, Wicklow, Kildare, Drogheda and Cavan and parts of Meath.

In Dundalk there were post primary services from Killsaran, Ravensdale, Blackrock, Carlingford, Duffys Cross and Louth village.