Gritting policy ‘prevents nurse making house call’

Thursday, 26 January 2017

A COUNTY Armagh woman who was left without a district nurse for a day due to the recent icy weather spell has hit out at TransportNI for its rural gritting policy.

The resident, who did not wish to be named, contacted the Ulster Gazette to complain that roads in her locality were not included on the road gritting schedule.

Earlier this month adverse weather conditions brought misery to motorists across Armagh, with hazardous driving conditions leading to reports of road collisions, as well as a number of rural schools remaining shut for a day.

Explaining her own situation, the woman said: "The nurse who comes to me skidded in her car at the top of the road and was unable to visit me.

"Two family cars were also damaged by vehicles skidding, which will have to go to the garage to get looked at. We pay tax on the cars, as well as our rates... I wasn't aware that we had to contact TransportNI and request to have salt and order it."

Urging TransportNI to introduce measures for rural roads, the woman added that conditions were so hazardous that collisions had taken place close to where she lives. "When the ice went and my nurse returned she just said what a relief it was. She told me otherwise she wouldn't be able to visit me," she continued

The resident's criticism comes as Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard faces fresh local calls for a rural gritting policy rethink by Newry and Armagh MLA, Justin McNulty.

The SDLP member previously described the DfI's current Secondary Gritting Service - which sees only rural areas treated subject to time and resources - as "second class treatment" for communities.

In response, however, Mr Hazzard has defended his department's position, stressing the primary road network remains the "priority".

“Coming from a rural community, I know very well the issues faced by local people," he said. "And I am already on record highlighting the resilience shown by rural dwellers, especially during periods of adverse weather.

 "My department has worked over many years to develop relationships with local communities, to ensure those worst affected are supported.

"As Minister, my priority must be the preventative salting of the primary road network, to help ensure the free flow of goods, services and people. This is around 7000 km and costs approximately £80,000 each time to salt and can often be treated several times in a 24hour period.

“The public can avail of salt provided in the 4,800 salt bins and 50,000 grit-piles located across the north."


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