Questions over NI snow disruption
While rural dwellers may be used to the difficulties of negotiating the worst of any wintry weather, the latest cold snap has been causing major problems for drivers even on main routes.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Those living and working in Belfast, or commuting to the city from elsewhere, have been faced with lengthy delays due to the inclement conditions over the last few days.
Close to 100 schools across Northern Ireland have also been forced to close their doors, mostly because of the risks associated with pupils trying to make their way there.
A Met Office yellow warning for ice remains in place for the rest of Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday morning.
While sleet and even snow may continue across some parts of Counties Antrim and Down, drivers will also have to deal with the possibility of snow that is already lying re-freezing.
"Freezing fog patches may also add to travel difficulties," forecasters are warning.
Roads on the scheduled network will be salted overnight but Roads Service warns motorists to drive cautiously, especially on untreated roads.
SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie has said that many of her South Down constituents expected delays in their home areas, but were unprepared for the lack of treated roads when commuting to Belfast.
"Being a rural constituency, South Down drivers are used to having to cope with difficult driving conditions on many of our minor roads," she said.
"However, in the last few days, many South Down drivers were unprepared for long delays as they struggled to get in through Belfast."
Ms Ritchie is now calling of a review of the handling of main routes by Road Services.
The public are advised to take extra care and be aware of the risk of further disruption to transport.
"Roads Service must immediately look into how this situation was allowed to happen - and to reoccur over the last few days," she said.
"With some delays resulting in drivers confined to their vehicles for over five hours, for what should have been a one-hour journey, this situation could have had serious repercussions.
"I will also be raising this issue with the Minister for Regional Development."
According to the Roads Service, salting and ploughing operations were affected by "the intensity of the snow, the volume of very slow moving traffic, and in places by a number of broken down or abandoned vehicles".
It comes after the icy weather caused widespread disruption on Monday night, with a number of roads being closed and long tail backs on the M1.
Breakdowns on the motorway westbound at Stockman's Lane - and later a stranded lorry - caused lane closures and left queues of traffic stretching from Broadway.
Some drivers in Co Antrim and Co Down experienced delays of up to two hours.
Areas including Lisburn, Comber, Saintfield, Ballygowan, Hillsborough, Carryduff, the Castlereagh hills, Dundonald, Holywood, Moira, Ballynahinch, Dromore, Dromara, Banbridge, Rathfriland and Castlewellan were also all badly hit.
Translink says a number of Metro services continue to be affected and some routes diverted. A number of Ulsterbus services have been cancelled due to the adverse weather conditions.
Local airports are open and operational, but passengers are advised to check websites for updates.