WITH the first frosts of the season descending on Fermanagh last week, many motorists where dismayed and worried by what they believed to be a lack of grit on the roads.
Warnings were posted on social media by motorists across the county, urging drivers to take care on roads they felt had not been treated. One motorist told the Herald they’d seen several cars in ditch last Tuesday morning when the main Ballinamallard to Trillick road was affected by early morning black ice, while MLA Jemma Dolan tweeted how the Boa Island Road towards Belleek appeared to be untreated despite sub-zero temperatures.
When contacted by the Herald, however, the Department of Infrastructure insisted both roads, along with all other main routes in the county had indeed been treated as 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,” a spokesman added.
The spokesman explained any road that carried more than 1,500 vehicles per day, and in exceptional circumstances such as “difficult topography” carrying between 1,000 and 1,500, would also be salted. Additional salt bins are also provided in areas not on the schedule for use on a self-help basis.
“From now until the middle of April, we will have 68 staff on standby to ensure the main roads are salted, helping drivers to cope with wintry conditions. Salt barns and stockpiles are being filled to maximum capacity in the division,” said Conor Loughrey, Western Division roads manager.
Mr Loughrey said the division had 34 gritters that could be available in three hours, an operations which costs £20,000 every time it takes place.
“As in previous years, arrangements are in place to enlist the help of contractors and local farmers to assist in efforts to clear blocked roads in the even of significant snow.”