Belfast Telegraph

Private firms may clear pavements of snow and ice

Private companies could be hired to clear town centre pavements of snow and ice, the roads minister said today.

Conor Murphy is in negotiations with district councils to introduce the measures.

He was heavily criticised in the Assembly today for leaving elderly people stranded in their homes because they were too scared to brave the slippery conditions.

SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt said: "There is little movement across our region. There are elderly people seven days indoors because they cannot leave their homes because they don't believe it is safe to do so.

"If he (Mr Murphy) says that he believes that there are adequate procedures in place to ensure roads and pavements are kept safe in severe weather conditions, what does he say to the thousands of people who are prisoners in their own homes because nobody is willing to take the leadership necessary to knock the heads together that need knocked together and to do something to ensure the people of this region some sort of quality of life irrespective of the weather?"

Mr Murphy said salt reserves were full and added staff had been out every night clearing the roads. They have stockpiled 65,000 tonnes of salt.

The minister said the SDLP had endorsed measures to handle the bad weather. He added he appreciated the difficulties faced by vulnerable people in rural areas.

"Roads Service have been almost acting as an emergency service in the last 10 or 12 days, in the middle of the night, when other people are safely tucked up in their beds, in treacherous conditions, providing a service to the public and to the best of their abilities," the minister said.

"They should be commended for that service that they have done. We have managed by and large."

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