Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Transport NI accused of‘abandoning rural communities’

The body responsible for carrying out essential road improvements and repairs has been accused of “abandoning rural communities” by Sinn Féin councillor Terry Hearty after it was revealed that projects in Crossmaglen, which were previously considered a priority, have now been dismissed.

Mr Hearty was speaking after a recent meeting with Roads Service Divisional Manager Simon Richard who presented the body’s Annual Spring Report to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

The Slieve Gullion representative dismissed the report as a “box ticking exercise” and said rural communities were now paying for the Department’s “gross mismanagement of its budget”.

Expressing his disappointment at the report’s content, Councillor Hearty said: “A number of projects which we had identified as priorities had been removed from the report while others had never featured at all.   In particular the junction at Creamery Road leading on to the Newry Road [Crossmaglen] has been removed despite being identified as a priority project for two years. Similarly, the junction at the Lough Ross Road onto the Blayney Road, which we have been campaigning for improvements at for years, wasn’t even mentioned.

“These were key projects which councillors like myself, who live here and listen to the people here, had identified as being of the utmost importance for the safety of motorists and pedestrians and yet some Belfast bureaucrat just dismissed them with the stroke of a pen.  No consultation with local people or representatives, just penny pinching and corner cutting.  They claimed to want the feedback of local representatives on priority projects and then they came down here with a nice glossy report that totally dismissed our concerns and suggestions.  The whole thing was a farce, a box ticking exercise,” Mr Hearty added angrily.

“All departments are dealing with budget cuts but none have mismanaged their budgets as badly as Regional Development.   Road maintenance is only a tiny part of their budget and yet it seems to be the first thing cut,” he claimed.

“Rural communities feel as if they have been totally abandoned by Roads Service.  Grass isn’t cut, corners and junctions are blind and potholes only get deeper and wider.  Rural people are paying for the gross mismanagement of the department’s budget and if some of these roads get any worse, people are going to pay with their lives.  If something isn’t done soon many of these roads are going to become impassable.

“Rural people are being treated as second class citizens by this department, indeed the only department doing anything for them is Michelle O’Neill’s through the Rural Development Programme.  Right across the South rural communities are organising, standing up together and fighting back.  I think it’s high time rural communities in the North stood with them,” he added.