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East Clare reps call for 700km gritting programme to be expanded

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Quicker reactions are needed in East Clare when it comes to gritting roads, a local councillor has outlined.

Currently almost 700km is covered under Clare County Council’s winter gritting programme. A review focusing on “key link roads” left out of this scheme was requested by Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) at the January meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District.

Routes mentioned by the Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe MD included the Feakle to Scariff road and the Gort to Tulla road. “These roads need to be included in the winter gritting programme as a matter of urgency for the safety of motorists,” Hayes believed.

As it stands, the winter maintenance plan “is operating at capacity,” senior executive engineer Niamh Madden responded. She detailed that elected representatives would be given the chance to make submissions in the spring for the next review of the winter plan. The roads referenced would be considered when a review is held in June, she confirmed.

Addressing the meeting, Cllr Hayes affirmed “Any road that has been gritted has been done very well and looked after, this is not a criticism of the roads done. During the recent frosty period, we got a number of criticisms and viewpoints in relation to our link roads”. He acknowledged the financial impact of extending the programme but pointed out, “only for the help of Clare County Council, the people of Flagmount would have been left without a shop because the roads weren’t gritted”. Hayes suggested a sign be placed on untreated roads to alert motorists.

Mechanisms to allow local authority staff in certain periods should exist, Cllr Hayes maintained. He told the meeting that contractors were brought in by Galway County Council to grit local and regional roads. “We need to have salt banks in Bodyke that are available to communities. This spring isn’t over yet, we could have difficult periods in the next few weeks. There is an opportunity for us to be proactive. There have been a lot of accidents, I could name so many roads but we need to start gritting our regional roads but we also need to be able to react quicker from our Scariff office and depot in Bodyke”.

Confusion was voiced by Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) who wondered if the plan was at capacity would existing routes be pulled. He supported the proposal but disagreed with the call to put a sign up to state if roads were not gritted, “We don’t want somebody coming off gritted road thinking they can now hit 80 miles per hour. The message is for the people to drive them as if they are not being gritted, if they are that’s great so it makes them even safer”.

More roads should be included on the programme, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) remarked. He recalled that the Scariff to Feakle road was previously included on a priority list and wished to receive a new copy of the list from the senior engineer. “I would like to compliment the people going out late at night and early in the morning to keep our roads safe”.

Hope was expressed by Cllr Pat Burke (FG) that extra submissions would be made to increase the capacity of the programme. “We all have roads that can be treated at times,” he acknowledged.

Acting senior executive officer, Morgan Lahiffe stated that the winter maintenance emergency plan was a three tiered plan. The County Council went into the third tier in 2009 when prolonged frost did not thaw during the day. Submissions would be welcomed by the Transportation Department, he said. If conditions are bad enough, discretion will be applied, he added. “We wouldn’t be getting involved in salting places when it is a three or four day window. If there are prolonged periods of frost, there will be discretion to help out”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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