As the colder weather starts to creep in, the Department of Regional Development has launched its winter service operation.
The scheme aims to keep traffic flowing safely throughout the winter months.
There will be over 300 staff available every day from now until April 2016 who will salt the road network that serves around 80 per cent of daily traffic flow in Northern Ireland.
The full winter service fleet of 130 gritters and eight specialist snow blower vehicles are operational and available to be deployed at any time.
The operation was launched by Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen.
Speaking at the launch the Minister said: “We are all too well aware that winter brings with it uncertainty in terms of the weather. However, what the Northern Ireland public can be certain about is that the operation to keep our main roads open this winter is firmly in place and that the Department is planning to deliver a normal level of winter service this year.
“Staff with fully operational equipment and over 70,000 tonnes of salt are prepared and ready to be deployed should the weather impact on the main road network.”
TransportNI will salt the main through-routes which carry more than 1,500 vehicles per day. In exceptional circumstances, some roads which carry between 1,000 and 1,500 vehicles daily will also be salted.
Reserve stocks of around 20,000 tonnes of salt are strategically placed at points across Northern Ireland, which can be used if required.
The Minister has also made provision for further supplies of salt to be supplied if required, at the rate of around 15,000 tonnes per month.
The Minister added: “Additional salt bins are provided on routes not included on the gritting schedule. These are free of charge to the public to use on a self help basis.”
To help with the operation, arrangements have been made with contractors and local farmers who will help clear blocked roads after heavy snowfall.
There also emergency plans put in place to help deal with problems which may arise such as, farmers requiring food and stock or residents who may need fuel.
The Department have encouraged people to take time to plan for winter now. Commercial property owners in particular should ensure that they have adequate supplies of salt in place to ensure the safety of their employees and visitors.
Further advice is contained in the TransportNI winter service information leaflet ‘Keeping Traffic on the Move During Winter.’ It is available to download at www.drdni.gov.uk.