Anger mounts as lack of salt leaves regional roads in dangerous condition

17 December 2010 No Comments by The Northern Standard

michael@northern-standard.ie

With nervous motorists in Monaghan and Cavan having had to chance their luck since the weekend on extremely dangerous roads that have not been treated by the local authorities, they will not be happy to hear that restrictions on the amount of salt to be spread will remain in place in the coming days, even as more severe weather is expected from today (Thursday) onward.

An engineer with Monaghan Co Council confirmed to the Northern Standard yesterday that only national routes are currently being salted, as a result of a direction received from the National Roads Authority (NRA) last Friday, which limits the amount of salt to be used to only 15 tonnes per day.

Putting this in context, the official pointed out that up to 100 tonnes per night was normally used by Monaghan Co Council to fully cover national, regional and other local roads in the county. Properly covering the national roads in Monaghan would take about 23 tonnes a day, he added — which meant that the current embargo was not even adequate for the national routes alone.

The Co Council Roads Section engineer said stocks of salt held by councils around the country were running extremely low. Co Monaghan had received 2,500 tonnes of salt since this year’s cold weather started, and almost all of this had already been used up. This was a significant amount, given that the winter months were still far from over, and given that only 4,000 tonnes in total had been used over the entire winter period last year.
Up until Friday all the main roads and about 150 kilometres of local roads in the county were being treated, but this had changed with the new restrictions introduced by the NRA.

He admitted however, that many important roads in the county had been left in a very dangerous condition at the weekend as a result of the severe frost.

When asked why it was that the country was finding itself short on supplies, particularly after lessons should have been learned as a result of the big freeze last year, the council official said many areas had been using salt at much greater rate than anticipated. These included western coastal counties which did not normally experience such prolonged icy conditions.

The NRA told media outlets during the week that while additional salt shipments were en route from the Mediterranean area, it would take up to two weeks for some of these to get to Ireland. A spokesperson claimed that the recent spell of bad weather was a “historical event” that could not have been predicted.

Many disgruntled road users will be unimpressed by this explanation, however, which seems to indicate a “cross your fingers and hope for the best” approach.

The Monaghan Co Council spokesperson accepted that it would be better if the country stocked itself adequately in advance, thereby allowing for any outcome — although also pointed out that storage-space issues might have to be addressed in some instances if large stockpiles were to be held.

He also agreed that road conditions had never been as dangerous as they were over the last number of days, with untreated black ice posing a severe risk to the public.

Many roads throughout Cavan and Monaghan have been in a very hazardous state since the weekend. The R188 Rockcorry to Cootehill road was particularly treacherous yesterday morning, with black ice causing a car and later a roadsweeping lorry (pictured here) to leave the road. No injuries were caused in either incident.

Meanwhile, local councillors have been venting their anger at the failure to keep regional routes treated. Members of Carrickmacross Town Council and Cootehill Town Council vented their frustration to their respective county officials at their meetings on Monday last (see pages 31 and 35).

Updates on the roads being treated in Monaghan can be obtained at the Co Council’s www.monaghan.ie website.

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