De-icer 'should be tested on roads'
Trials of a new liquid which can clear roads of ice and snow at temperatures as low as minus 20C should be considered, an Assembly member has said.
With Scotland's Transport Minister describing tests as encouraging, Northern Ireland should radically rethink its position on using the liquid, according to Conall McDevitt, SDLP MLA for South Belfast. The new de-icer was recently successfully tested on hard-packed snow and ice on a road in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, and is also used in North America.
The Department for Regional Development said it has no plans for trials in Northern Ireland as grit had cleared roads effectively.
Mr McDevitt said: "I really do think we should be exploring these alternative methods, and there would be ample opportunity to explore their deployment on major roads across our island. Scotland lost a transport minister as a result of mishandling the big freeze. That may well have provided a catalyst for a radical rethink.
"The fact that no matter what happens here ministers appear unaccountable to anyone but their own parties and may explain why we are not pioneering new solutions to the challenges presented by severe weather."
Sinn Fein Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy had been urged to resign by political opponents after thousands of people were left without water for weeks because of burst pipes.
Roads Service staff were out in the bitter conditions night and day clearing roads in unprecedentedly low temperatures for Northern Ireland.
Despite this roads in towns such as Ballynahinch, Co Down, became dangerous when snow turned to ice days after the initial snowfalls. Travelling over the Glenshane Pass from Londonderry to Belfast became very difficult. Major concern was raised about the condition of untreated roads.
In Scotland traffic on part of its busiest motorway came to a standstill. A major stretch of the M8, the motorway which links Edinburgh and Glasgow, had to be shut for almost 48 hours last month because of ice and snow on the carriageway.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Regional Development said: "While Roads Service will review the outcome of the Scottish trials when they are complete, there are no plans to carry out similar trials here. Roads Service has readily available supplies of salt and grit which have proven to be effective. During the recent cold spell grit proved to be effective at temperatures below the working range for salt."