LAST night a large number of people were stranded in Belfast and could not get home due to icy and treacherous conditions.
Late in the evening and into the early hours of the morning, many workers, shoppers and visitors to Belfast had to abandon the cars between Saintfield and the Ormeau Road due to the main road being undrivable. One driver described it as “hell on ice”. Around 2am, Downpatrick man Mal Kearney was one of many who faced the rigors of the freeze up. He finally managed to get home after a very uncomfortable ordeal.
“The road just seemed to be littered with many abandoned cars. Driving conditions were simply terrible. It was extremely icy and I even crashed my car twice and hit a fallen tree. I saw too other drivers in difficulty and noticed there had been other crashes.
“The temperature was very cold, and the road between Saintfield and the upper Ormeau Road just froze up and snow piled up on top of this. I could not see any gritters or salters on action. There was one but it seemed to look as though it had broken down. Many people were just frozen to the bone. I will think twice about heading back to Belfast unless the roads have been opened and are clear.
“It was just a total shambles. Nothing seems to have been done to make the roads passable and safe. I’ll be surprised if there aren’t deaths on this road tomorrow, especially with the trees down. I just hope that anyone out in it gets to their destination safe and sound.
“I passed two salters on the Antrim Road where I work but certainly did not see any working on the road from Belfast to Saintfield. These salters may have been on their way in the direction of Carryduff, I don’t know. I left Downpatrick at 9.15pm and didn’t make it to Belfast until 11.35pm. That was on a clear road. My cousin left an hour before me for Belfast and also crashed.
“There was just no sign of anyone out to clear the roads. And not a bit of snow on the Antrim Road where I work.”
Ritchie Calls for DRD Toad’s Service Review After Problems on Main Routes
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie MP has called for a review of Road Services’ handling of main routes during Bad Weather.
Main routes in central Belfast and the greater Belfast area were hampered by snow in the past few days and commuters who made their way from rural areas such as South Down, found for the first time, that the main routes around Belfast were among the worse hit by the bad weather with many routes seemingly untouched by snow ploughs or gritting.
She said: “Many of my constituents working or travelling to Belfast for personal reasons, including hospital appointments were surprised and unprepared for the impassable nature of the main routes in and around Belfast. Being a rural constituency South Down drivers are used to having to cope with difficult driving conditions on many of our minor roads. However, in the last few days, many South Down drivers were unprepared for long delays in their vehicles, as they struggled to get in through Belfast.
“Roads Service must immediately look into how this situation was allowed to happen, and to reoccur over the last few days. With some delays resulting in drivers confined to their vehicles for over five hours,unprepared in heavy snowfall, for what should have been a one hour jouney, this situation could have had serious repercussions I will also be raising this issue with the Minister for Regional Development,” added Ms Ritchie.