Northern Ireland news

Calls for changes to gritting guidelines following big freeze

Cairnshill PS was forced to remain shut yesterday. Picture by Hugh Russell

THERE have been calls for a review of guidelines around road gritting after some schools were forced to shut due to ice and snow.

Freezing conditions continued to cause problems across the north yesterday, after temperatures had plummeted as low as -10 Celsius overnight.

Air travel was disrupted and motorists and bus passengers affected in areas including Swatragh, Eglinton and Carrickfergus.

Some schools also had to shut, including Cairnshill Primary in south Belfast.

It had closed on Friday following the heavy snowfall and was forced to stay shut yesterday because of icy routes leading up to the school.

In a post on Facebook, it said "the safety of everyone travelling to and from school has to take priority".

One woman, who works beside the school, said the road was "not safe" to travel along.

"I've tried to clear the driveway and part of footpath and it's still really bad," she wrote.

"I've had to park my car on the main Cairnshill Road and walk to that house. It's deffo not safe... even taxis are refusing to drive into the street."

Like roads around many schools, the street leading to Cairnshill is not included in the salting programme carried out by the Department for Infrastructure.

SDLP South Belfast assembly member Claire Hanna said she believed gritting guidelines need to be revised.

"This is an annual problem of slipping and sliding of responsibilities between the various departments relating to the gritting of our roads," she said.

"While we realise that not every single area can be covered, there should not be the situation where schools are having to close because of a lack of gritting.

"I think there needs to be a revision of the guidelines that relate to the gritting of minor routes as well as footpaths in main arterial routes such as the Lisburn and Ormeau Roads.

"It can't be beyond us to figure it out."

A Department of Infrastructure spokeswoman said its winter service safety operation involved the salting of "main through routes which carry more than 1,500 vehicles per day".

"These roads serve around 80 per cent of daily traffic flow and make up 28 per cent of the total road network," she said.

"Salting of the scheduled road network has been ongoing since Thursday with snow ploughs also in operation when required.

"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."

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