Roads maintenance cuts: ‘Public safety will not be compromised’

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Despite significant cuts to road maintenance services due to budget constraints, public safety will not be compromised, a TransportNI official has claimed.

Northern Division Manager, Deidre Mackle gave the assurance in response to concerns raised by local councillors about the lack of grass cutting, particularly of sightlines at road junctions.

Presenting members of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council with TransportNI’s (formerly Roads Service) annual report, Ms Mackle highlighted the huge pressures on the roads budget, which has been slashed by 18 per cent. But she stressed that staff are doing their best with “very limited resources” to deliver “a skeleton service” and carry out basic maintenance work.

During the meeting, several members voiced concerns about the lack of grass cutting and stressed the need for sightlines to be cut to ensure motorist and pedestrian safety. They also raised queries about street lighting problems, gully cleaning and other issues.

Ms Mackle stressed that while grass cutting has been reduced, “safety is key” and sightlines are being cut.

“It is a very difficult period for the roads authority, but we try at all times to make sure safety is not compromised,” she assured members.

Ms Mackle said TransportNI will continue to work with council to try to overcome other grass cutting issues across the borough.

“Safety is always our first consideration when delivering any service,” she added.

The annual report, presented to councillors at their June meeting, highlights more than £37million of investment in the roads infrastructure in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Council area during 2014/15.

Ms Mackle gave a brief update on the ongoing A8 and A2 dual carriageway projects, and smaller schemes that have already been completed such as £1.9million of carriageway resurfacing work at locations such as Templepatrick Road, Sandyknowes roundabout and Hightown Road.

The report also details new provision for pedestrians in several areas, such as the installation of dropped kerbs and tactile paving at Fairview Road, Antrim Road and Jubilee Way.

Speaking ahead of the council meeting, DRD Minister Danny Kennedy outlined the cutbacks that have had to be made to routine maintenance programmes due to the lack of funding.

He confirmed that essential services such as pothole and street lighting repairs, gully emptying and grass cutting have all been reduced, but stressed that he will be “making a strong bid for resource funding in monitoring rounds to return routine maintenance services to normal levels.”