Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Gritty End of the Stick

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Gritty End of the Stick

Article excerpt

Byline: By Rhodri Phillips

The finger of blame for the appalling road conditions which brought Newcastle to a standstill and led to the cancellation of United's big game was being firmly pointed at the city council last night.

Safety officials were forced to call off Newcastle's game against Charlton on Wednesday evening, 25 minutes before kick-off, because the icy roads

outside St James's Park were causing chaos. Fans, football bosses and drivers last night blamed Newcastle City Council for the fiasco, which left the approach roads to the stadium like "ice rinks".

They said the council had failed to adequately grit the roads ( despite warnings there would be heavy snowfall on the day of the match, which 50,000 were due to attend.

Thousands of commuters were stuck. One of the main roads in and out of the city, Scotswood Road, ground to a halt with drivers taking more than an hour to travel three miles west along the untreated surface towards the A1 and Scotswood Bridge, which HAD been gritted by neighbouring Gateshead Borough Council.

It emerged last night that Newcastle City Council had spread just 300 tonnes of salt on the city's roads over a 30-hour period up until noon yesterday ( just over a tenth of the grit distributed by Gateshead.

A Newcastle City Council spokesman said heavy traffic had prevented them getting to the roads most in need of gritting on Wednesday night.

But Charlton's chief executive Peter Varney yesterday called the situation "absolutely diabolical" and said the club had written to the council to complain.

He said: "There seems to have been no gritting undertaken at all, which is an absolute disgrace. I came in a car that was sliding all over the road and there were cars sliding into one another.

"There were cars sliding past us, cars on the pavement and being abandoned. You had to see it to believe it. The roads were like ice rinks.

"For that situation to happen in a major city like Newcastle is just totally unacceptable. That has got to be looked at because for future matches, you cannot put public safety at risk in that way."

Newcastle Council's opposition Labour leader John O'Shea, who drove from the west of Newcastle to get to St James's on Wednesday night, said he was appalled by the state of the roads. …

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