Committee gets answers over road gritting

Councillors have had their say on anti-ice procedures carried out by Transport NI on local roads during the severe frost of December 27.
Councillors have had their say on anti-ice procedures carried out by Transport NI on local roads during the severe frost of December 27.

Councillors have had their say on anti-ice procedures carried out by Transport NI on local roads during the severe frost of December 27.

They had sought a face-to-face meeting with the roads body in the wake of widespread dissatisfaction amongst elected members over the general nature of a recent written response to their specific concerns about gritting in the borough on that date.

At the outset of discussion last Monday night, Network Maintenance Manager Gary Quinn pointed out that Transport NI are under no legal obligation to salt roads.

He explained that gritting criteria required a road to have a minimum of 1,500 vehicles per day or 1,000 vehicles ‘in difficult circumstances’, such as steep hills.

He also pointed out that to determine if gritting was required, Transport NI takes weather forecasts, local road surface temperatures as well as local/public information into consideration.

“Often we get rain following snow and washing away all the good work that is done,” said Mr Quinn.

“Sometimes we get complaints that a road has not been gritted and we have records to show it has been,” he added.

Numerous councillors remained adamant, however, that despite an amber weather warning being in place throughout Saturday, December 27, many local routes were not gritted in time to counter the severe frost which set in early that evening.

Cr Declan O’Loan said he had received reports that day of very serious road conditions on the Largy Road and the road between Ballymena and Glenravel and that while he was aware of the occurrence of intermittent showers - known to wash off grit, he stated: “there seems to be no reason why the gritting wasn’t more efficient”.

“It seemed there was a failure on that particular evening,” he said.

Cr Paul Maguire called for “a proper plan of action for Cargan” claiming that a gritter had been seen travelling through the village on December 27 without depositing salt and that there generally appeared to have been a lack of gritting in the Glenravel area.

Responding, Section Engineer, Clive Robinson said he would investigate, stating: “We can monitor that gritting. We don’t want anything that undermines the confidence in a service that we do well.”

Despite an assurance from Gary Quinn that, according to Transport NI records, the main Ballymoney line had been gritted not once but twice on the night of December 27, Ald. Sam Hanna was unconvinced.

“I don’t know how many smashes there were on that line from 4pm on. It was unbelievable the cars that were sticking through fences and hedges...I can assure you the Ballymoney line wasn’t gritted,” he declared.

Mr Robinson said he would provide councillors with information of “what happened on the ground on December 27” throughout the borough, including duty controller calls details, while Mr Quinn said “dates and times of grits based on the forecast” would also be made available.