Call for Roads Minister to reverse road maintenance cuts

August 24, 2015

Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon has called on Roads Minister Danny Kennedy to rethink his cuts to road maintenance after it was revealed that Newry and Mourne had the second highest level of deaths and serious injury on the north’s roads last year.

Many of the incidents occurred on rural roads in the area, a trend visible across the north.

Ms Fearon said she was extremely concerned that the percentage of people killed on rural roads would only increase due to the lack of investment in maintenance.

“The percentage of road deaths on rural roads accounted for 74% of the total number of people killed on our roads over the period of 2013-2014 and it is important this is addressed,” she said.

“It is unacceptable that three quarters of everyone killed will be in a rural community given there is less traffic on these roads.  I am concerned the lack of maintenance of the rural roadways and hedgerows will only increase the number of accidents in these areas.

“If we are serious about tackling deaths on our roads we need to target the areas where the majority of these deaths take place and that is on the rural roadway network.”

Ms Fearon says Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy now needs to “reverse his decision to cut back on maintenance of the roadways” if these figures are to decrease.

She added that with winter on the way conditions would only worsen and Minister Kennedy’s inability to guarantee he would “rural-proof” roads provided no reassurance.

“My colleague, MLA Oliver McMullan, asked the regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy, would he ensure that the Winter Service Route Optimisation Programme, which deals with the gritting of roads, will be rural proofed,” she revealed.

“His response was quite alarming and in my opinion could lead to increase road safety concerns at times of poor weather.

“Essentially Danny Kennedy stated that the current number of routes for gritting would not be reduced but personnel and machines may well be.

“Given the fact that addressing bad weather is time limited and there is an urgency on getting roads gritted in a short window as temperatures fall and snow and ice accumulate, it is clear that some roads, especially in rural areas, may not be gritted in time.  There have been occasions when so-called snap freezes or snowfalls were not predicted in time by weather forecasts. Can the Minister be confident that he can stand over his claims that all roads will be reached with less staff and machines employed?

“There is a huge responsibility on the Minister to ensure that people’s lives are not endangered. Going on recent form where grass verges at major junctions have been allowed to overgrow obscuring sightlines on our roads, people will be rightly concerned about this latest move.”