Slashing road budget from £131m to £54m is putting lives at risk, says Scott

Unite's Gareth Scott.
Unite's Gareth Scott.

Derry trade unionist Gareth Scott says the slashing of road maintenance budgets from £131m to £54m over the past three years is putting lives at risk with safety signage overgrown, sightlines impaired and roads left prone to flooding.

Unite Regional Officer, Gareth Scott, who represents the union’s roads maintenance workers in Transport NI, commented on the impact of cuts to roads maintenance services:

“Following our exposure, yesterday, that the Structural Maintenance budget for Northern Ireland’s Roads has fallen from £131 million in 2013/14 to £52 million in 2015/16, Unite workplace representatives have been in contact to highlight the impact of cuts on roads maintenance work.

“What we heard from the workers was deeply concerning. There is a cumulative impact from ongoing budget cuts meaning that our roads are degrading over time.

“There has been a dramatic increase in the number of overgrown verges and hedges growing wild. These impair sightlines and conceal road safety signs, posing a very real hazard to road users.

“We also heard how, even where there’s a budget to allow verges to be cut, workers are being instructed not to take the time to clear gully gratings afterwards. This allows a build-up of debris and leaves roads at much greater risk of localised flooding. In built-up areas, gully checks meant to happen annually are now not happening at all.

“In many cases surface dressing of roads, itself a low-cost short-term solution, is going ahead without potholes being filled-in, verge widening, or the reinstatement of broken bit-mac, sunken manholes or utility covers. Avoiding this additional work may cut costs in the short-term but compromise the integrity and longevity of repairs, meaning they will have to be redone at a future point at even greater cost.

“These management corner-cutting practices are a false economy but are necessitated by the harsh budgetary reductions being imposed by the NI Executive.

“In the meantime our roads are left susceptible to rapid deterioration threatening the lives and safety of road users. Our members are deeply unhappy at being forced into these practices. Stormont must reconsider its approach to funding roads maintenance”, Mr Scott concluded.