Local routes to benefit from £10m rural roads improvement scheme

July 4, 2016

The recent announcement by Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard that £10m is to be invested in improving the conditions of some rural roads has been welcomed by political representatives in south Armagh.

Minister Hazzard said the extra funding, made available as part of the June monitoring round, has been earmarked for resurfacing work, which would begin “immediately”.

“This will make a big difference for our rural communities who rely on these roads to go about their lives,” he said, adding that his department is considering areas in greatest need that will avail of the scheme.

Assembly member Megan Fearon welcomed the news and said the Minister’s announcement was further evidence of Sinn Féin’s commitment to rural communities.

“When we went to the people in the run up to the last election, one of the major issues we got on the doors was the deplorable state of rural roads.  We told people that we would step in where others have failed and I’m delighted to see that our Minister Chris Hazzard is living up to those promises,” she said.

“Just last week he announced that the roads maintenance budget for Newry, Mourne and Down would be doubled and now we have this announcement of a £10million road improvement package to stop deterioration and repair severe defects on around 1,000 rural roads.”

Ms Fearon revealed that “at least £3.3m” of the funding will be allocated to the Southern Division area.

“This extra funding was released by a Sinn Féin Finance Minister and targeted at areas most in need by a Sinn Féin Infrastructure Minister; this is what can be achieved with a little political will and creativity when you respect your mandate and take part in government rather than sniping fruitlessly from the sidelines.  I’m sure the people of south Armagh, and indeed rural communities across the north, will be delighted and relieved to hear that this issue will no longer be ignored.”

The SDLP’s Justin McNulty also welcomed the news but warned against a “pothole patchwork programme”.

“There are miles and miles of roads across Newry and Armagh that have been left in a sorry state of affairs after years on underinvestment in our transport infrastructure. Local people will know that driving through our scenic part of the world has become more of an obstacle endurance test over the last few years,” he said.

“I’m glad that the Infrastructure Minister has decided to take action and [has] announced a new initiative to tackle the poor condition of rural roads. It is important however, that this is more than a pothole patchwork programme.

“Although the Minister was unable to commit to a specific sum for our constituency when I questioned him in the Assembly, it’s clear that we have a particular need for road improvements, across Newry and Armagh and particularly in south Armagh.  I would encourage anyone who notices road faults to report them to Transport NI immediately so that we can avail of as much funding as possible to enhance our roads network,” Mr McNulty added.