An independent review into the delivery of the winter service programme by the DRD Roads Service has been published.
Transport Minister Danny Kennedy said that overall the findings of the review, which was carried out by the National Winter Service Research Group, were positive.
“At my request, the UK National Winter Service Research Group undertook a comprehensive review of every aspect of the winter service programme.
“I am encouraged that the review has been generally positive and has praised the experience and professionalism of DRD frontline staff.”
A total of 14 recommendations were made in on winter service policy and procedures.
One of the key recommendations from the review was that the winter service fleet replacement programme continues to be prioritised.
The Minister said: “My department has recently bought 12 new gritters at a cost of £900,000 which will be incorporated into our current fleet of 132. The new fleet will help in delivering more reliable winter service operations in the most extreme conditions.
“Whilst the purchase of these new gritters is welcome, the report highlights the necessity for an ongoing replacement of the fleet. During the severe weather this year, there were break-downs which resulted in delays to gritters salting the roads. In my view this was simply unacceptable – given it impacted on the public.
“I am committed to an improved winter service fleet and continue to seek Executive funding for better equipment.”
Continuing the Minister said that an action plan has been/ prepared to deal with the recommendations of the review.
He said: “I have rightly accepted all of the review’s recommendations and my officials have been directed to produce a prioritised action plan to address the recommendations.
“I have existing arrangements with 24 Councils to make salt and grit available to help clear the ice and snow from designated town and city centre footways.
Councils’ help in times of severe weather is greatly appreciated by my Department and by local communities.”
Concluding the Minister said he had now written again to the Councils seeking their continued support for the forthcoming winter.
He said: “In relation to the two councils where no agreements exist – Antrim and Castlereagh, I have written pointing out the importance of government bodies working together and I hope they will formally come on board.”