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Future Assembly to prioritise the state of North's Road infrastructure - McCartney

12 May, 2006


Speaking in response to the survey of carried out by the Quarry Products Association, Sinn Féin Regional Development spokesperson Raymond McCartney expressed his alarm at the depressing state and potential safety implications for the Six County road network.

Mr McCartney said:

"The Regional Director of the QPA, Gordon Best has clearly outlined that within Western Division Roads covering Magherafelt, Cookstwown, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Omagh and Strabane spending has been slashed from £9.9million in 2005 to £3.95million in 2006. As a key group representing the road aggregates suppliers industry, the knock on effect on a threefold basis:

1. Decay in roads network valued at £20billion - no investment means undervaluing key asset. Downstream, roads will decay due to lack of maintenance and eventually require reconstruction, forcing rates increases;

2. Newly formed Councils will inherit an estimated £900,000,000 under-spend once they assume responsibility for roads network in 2009;

3. Loss of some 300 highly skilled jobs within road surfacing industry in North of Ireland.

(SOURCE: QPA, PRESS RELEASE 12 MAY 206)

Mr. McCartney commented:

"This survey carried out by the Quarry Products Association paints a stark picture for those responsible for the structural maintenance of the one of the North‚s biggest assets ˆ its roads. In each of the four Area Divisions within Roads service the average breakdown of asphalt and bitmac resurfacing over the next 2 years ranges from 60% to in the West to a shocking 78% in the Southern Division. British Direct Rule is not even performing a minimal role in Ireland when it comes to Regional Development; it is verging on negligent when this minimalist approach to road investment is translated downstream. There are severe road safety repercussions involved unless immediate action is taken.

The Sinn Féin Assembly member who knows all too well the huge deficit which exists in road infrastructure expressed his willingness for the reconvened Assembly to have the power to deal with core issues, which British Ministers have failed abysmally on trying to deliver.

"This is another live and crucial issue which British Direct Rule Minister after Minister has failed to deal with. There is no doubt that the Hain Assembly which is being reconvened next Monday must sit up and take cognisance that road safety, the upkeep of a key asset and industry as envisaged under the Regional Transportation Strategy must be delivered on. This is done best at a local level, in the shape of the political institutions envisaged under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The Audit Office, DRD's own external consultant, ICE Institute of Civil Engineers, and Roads Service Corporate Plan state that the Roads Structural Maintenance budget out to be in the region of £90million per annum. I am calling on my colleagues within the Assembly to join me in a cross party delegation to put it to the Minister, David Cairns if he is going to preside over and watch as the road aggregates industry goes down the tubes, along with an increase in road accidents, rising rates, insurance claims as he continues to maintain the roads network at less than a quarter of its value?

Mr. McCartney concluded:

"I look forward to working in a fully operational Assembly supported by an Executive, with all my colleagues, including the DUP to work hard to install a Minister for Regional Development who is accountable to the people of the North, who knows the impact of such news and who is in a position to take steps to make good the legacy that is the cost of direct rule." ENDS

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