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Regional Development Transportation Strategy not fit for 21st Century - McCartney

15 August, 2005

With the release of the Regional Transportation Strategy (RTS) Annual Monitoring Report, Sinn Fein Foyle MLA and Party Spokesperson for Regional Development, Raymond McCartney has again reiterated his view that the Department for Regional Development is intent on ignoring the key infrastructure needs across the North and the crucial All Ireland dimension required for twenty first century Ireland.

Mr McCartney said:

"This latest annual monitoring report is further evidence that Direct Rule Ministers are wedded to delivering on the failed Regional Development Strategy (RDS). There are many key projects required to bring our transport network up to standards, which adhere to international benchmarks. Issues of accessibility, the longstanding modernisation of the archaic rail system, major capital investment in establishing the A6 motorway / dual carriageway route, rural transport provision, expansion and planning for a truly national cycle route are crucial.

"Of course absolutely essential to the delivery of a modern transport strategy is the realisation that the impact of the Border must not be allowed to obstruct roads, rail, cycle and other key transport services. It is not enough that the North West continues to starve economically, socially and politically with the agenda of government officials firmly fixed on the Belfast Metropolitan Area (BMA). In the opening preamble to this latest report the Minister responsible for Transport in the North, Shaun Woodward makes four references to Belfast based projects".

The Sinn Fein Member has called on the two Governments to take this opportunity to collaborate on key infrastructure projects, which are central to delivering, building, and sustaining the levels of economic and social regeneration the entire North West region is entitled to. The levels of investment, which are set to take place during the lifespan of the Regional Transport Strategy 2015, are grossly skewed towards highways, with rail and bus investment literally starved in comparison.

"The breakdown of proposed funding as set out by this report is bleak - some 63% of total resources are directed to roads, improving the motorway network, Strategic Road Improvements (SRIs), 85% of this figure assigned to road maintenance. Rail and Bus investment set at 18% and 14% respectively, with walking / cycling receiving 2% of RTS funding. With obesity levels at alarming levels, the environmental impact from car emissions ominous, I urge the Direct Rule Ministers to adopt interdepartmental strategies to address all these issues. With the spread of portfolios as they are amongst British Ministers, and the absence of accountable political institutions, I am afraid that if devolution is not restored soon, we will continue to see little or no improvement on the current levels of infrastructure development. I am convinced that if the political will exists we can attract real economic growth to this deprived region. The indictor for any engineer or economist is the level of construction and infrastructure development prevalent in any one region or country. I am bound to say that the current strategy in place offers the North no real opportunity to turn the corner vis-à-vis implementing capital works projects fit for purpose".

However the Foyle Assembly Member has stated the Department is committed to delivering an Accessible Transport Strategy (ATS), which must be welcomed. Mr. McCartney commented that hopefully this approach would remove the barriers that have impeded older people and those with disabilities face, barriers which for too long have meant the social exclusion of vulnerable groups accessing public transport. ENDS

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