Half of salt stocks already used up
Nearly half the salt stored to clear roads through the winter has already been used.
After a major operation to keep routes open in the recent Arctic temperatures, the Roads Service has now used 29,000 tonnes of salt from a reserve of 65,000 tonnes.
The SDLP's Patsy McGlone, having secured the figures in an Assembly question, expressed concerns for the rest of the winter period, though officials said new stocks of salt could be secured.
Mr McGlone said: "We need very clear assurances from Roads Service that sufficient quantities of grit are available to ensure that roads are kept clear and traffic can move, including in rural constituencies.
"If the grit reserves are further depleted, then many will fear that smaller roads and routes which are difficult will become impassable."
Mr McGlone asked an Assembly question of Roads Minister Conor Murphy on the levels of grit and salt stored for winter roads, and how long they should last.
The minister answered: "My department's Roads Service has advised that, as part of its pre-season preparations, salt barns, which are strategically placed in depots throughout the North, were filled to capacity.
"This salt reserve, of around 65,000 tonnes, is more than enough to treat scheduled roads during a typical winter.
"However, approximately 29,000 tonnes of that reserve has been used so far this winter, leaving 36,000 tonnes still to be utilised.
"Obviously, the length of time that reserves will last is dependent on the severity of the weather during the remainder of the winter period. However, Roads Service has advised that arrangements are in place to replenish the depleted salt stocks if necessary."