Road repair deficit fears

SDLP MLA Gerry Mullan.

SDLP MLA Gerry Mullan.

Roads Minister Chris Hazzard has said that TransportNI’s Northern Division, which looks after the gullies and road surfaces of East Derry, will receive £14.6 million of a road maintenance budget allocation in 2016/17 but wouldn’t detail how an overall deficit in the authority’s repair coffers will affect us.

East Derry SDLP MLA Gerry Mullan tabled an Assembly Question asking the Minister to outline details of the road maintenance budget deficit for the East Derry area specifically.

But the Minister, whilst confirming a £75 million shortfall across the north in general, wouldn’t be drawn on how this would affect our grass verges and potholes.

“My Department does not allocate funding on a constituency basis,” said Mr Hazzard.

“However, it has been independently established that some £141 million per annum, based on 2016 prices, is needed to maintain the structural integrity of the entire road network in the north.

“The structural maintenance budget for the current financial year (2016/17) is currently estimated at £66 million, leaving a shortfall of around £75 million,” he confirmed.

The Roads Minister, however, said the roads authority’s would allocate additional monies if these were necessary.

Mr Hazzard said: “TransportNI allocates additional funding to its four Divisions on the basis of need, using a range of weighted indicators, tailored to each maintenance activity i.e. resurfacing, patching, gully emptying, grass cutting etc.

“Divisions use these indicators when apportioning across council areas to ensure, as far as possible, an equitable distribution of funds.

“East Londonderry is predominantly located in TransportNI’s Northern Division. The current forecast expenditure on Structural Maintenance in Northern Division in 2016/17 is some £14.6 million.

“The Member should be assured that I will continue to discuss the need for additional funds for this key area as opportunities arise. “

Meanwhile, the Minister told Mr Mullan’s colleague, the East Derry DUP MLA George Robinson, the Department no longer illuminates road signs for reasons of economy.

“It is considered that the use of such modern retro-reflective sign-face materials will provide a more efficient and cost effective means of enhancing the visibility of traffic signs at night while reducing the cost of provision and maintenance as well as energy costs,” said Mr Hazzard.