We ARE ready for our next big freeze, say roads bosses
A MASSIVE 80,000 tonnes of salt are on standby in case the country is gripped by another big freeze.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) is confident that workers won't face another nightmare winter even if we are hit by Arctic conditions.
A new plan is in place that will see the centralisation of parts of the response to a severe weather event.
And the NRA has spent €6m on storage for de-icing salt and a further €2.5m for grit spreaders and snow blades.
However, Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes said that he still had concerns that the authorities had not learned from all of their mistakes of last year.
The bitterly cold weather last December and January resulted in commuter chaos and left behind problems including damage to the capital's water system. Thousands of schools were shut for days at a time and many people were unable to make it to work as the country ground to a halt.
"I'd be very concerned that they ran out of salt last year. They need to make sure they have the supply and that they can access it. It's so, so important for road safety," Mr Hayes told the Herald.
However, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said: "I am satisfied that sufficient funding has been made available to the National Roads Authority for winter maintenance on the national road network."
His department has tasked the NRA with ensuring adequate salt supplies are available in future to keep the main roads clear.
The NRA has signed a contract for the supply of 80,000 tonnes with an initial call off of 50,000 tonnes to be imported and distributed by mid December and a further 30,000 tonnes in January 2011.
This supply will be in addition to the 20,000 tonnes of salt stock currently available.
"I am informed that local authorities can also continue to purchase salt directly from traditional suppliers," said Mr Dempsey. A new winter service manual is also to be issued to local authorities shortly and will outline how they should react to heavy snow and frost.
Despite the reassurances, Mr Hayes told the Herald that he had concerns about the new plan and in particular the centralisation of the response.
"I think they should allow local authorities who know how to do the job to take control," he said. "I would be worried that decision will be made from afar. I wouldn't be 100pc happy about it."
Noting that frosty nights have already started, the Tipperary TD added: "They need to be ready from now on."