20/10/2009

Two Decades To 'Right Roads'

There has been a warning that it might take as long as 20 years to clear an alleged backlog of underfunding and get NI roadways 'fit for purpose'.

The claim comes as it was revealed that a third of Northern Ireland's road maintenance budget last year was spent simply on patching up potholes instead of improving the condition of the roads.

Personal liability claims made against Roads Service for personal injury and vehicle damage incurred on carriageways also rose 15% in a year to just under 3,000.

Now, roads campaigners have joined NI Transport Minister Conor Murphy in urging the Executive to take seriously the recommendations of a new report on the condition of Northern Ireland's roads which warns that the annual structural maintenance budget needs to rise £30 million a year to £108m.

This year's budget is £71.8m and is set to drop to £70.4m next year.

Professor Martin Snaith, author of a review of the structural maintenance requirements for Roads Service, warned that it could still take 20 years to clear a backlog of more than £700m needed to rebuild roads that are not 'fit for purpose'. In 1998, this backlog stood at just £100m.
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Personal liability claims made against Roads Service over carriageway incidents rose 15% to 2,893 in 2008/9 - of these, 1,883 involved vehicle damage and 826 were for personal injury, while 184 were for property damage or 'other'. Much of the increase was down to 434 additional claims for damage to vehicles.

The report reveals that 30% of the Structural Maintenance Budget is now spent on patching potholes, as opposed to what Professor Snaith describes as the "stitch in time" approach.

"Unplanned reactive patching of the road surface is less efficient and usually provides poor value for money but nonetheless is, in the short term, essential to maintain the serviceability of roads and footways where localised failures may occur," he said.

"The current level is £21.5 million representing around 30% of the Structural Maintenance Budget."

Almost half (46%) the Trunk Road Network (TRN) is below the UK level of skidding resistance, at which investigations would be launched into the need for remedial work, compared to 35% in in 2003. Some 31% of non-trunk A Class roads are below the level.

In England the comparable figures are just over 10% for the TRN and 24% for non-trunk A Class Roads.

Last week, NI Transport Minister Conor Murphy called for increased investment, warning that the Executive needs to be aware of these funding challenges when it sets its priorities.

"The report highlights the case for a significantly enhanced level of investment to carry out much needed maintenance repair work across the network," he said.

(BMcC/KMcA)

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