Call for more talks on roads related issues

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Transport NI should double its face-to-face meetings with Council to four per year. Councillor Paul Maguire has said.

Speaking on Tuesday night in the wake of Transport NI’s spring consultation with Mid & East Antrim’s Community Planning Commmittee, its Chairman, Cllr Maguire said additional talks were needed due to the huge number of local roads related questions to which councillors had sought answers.

Cllr Paul Maguire. INBT 22-151JC

Cllr Paul Maguire. INBT 22-151JC

While many councillors had submitted questions in writing to the roads body prior to the meeting, on the night most concern was voiced over restricted budget enforced cutbacks to routine network maintenance including grass cutting, weed spraying, and gully clearing.

Northern Divisional Manager Deidre Mackle, who attended the meeting with Section Engineer Clive Robinson, said that with the Department facing £60million of cuts in 2015/16, Transport NI was already “in a negative budget situation”.

“We are now undertaking what we are calling a skeleton service,” said Ms Mackle who added that while she recognised grass cutting was “a big source of complaint” not just locally but province-wide, resources currently allowed for “one cut and, thereafter, safety cuts” at sight lines and junctions.

“The skeleton service developed is ensuring our statutory requirements are being adhered to while not compromising safety...Safety is our number one priority,” she stated.

It was also pointed out to councillors that the overall spend in Mid & East Antrim during 2014-15 was £48.5million of which, she said, over £10m had been spent on maintenance alone.

Looking ahead, Cllr Brian Collins said he was worried about the affect current financial constraints would have on winter services such as the clearing of snow and gritting, pointing out “we have already had ground frost this month”.

Responding, Ms Mackle stated: “All I am in a position to say is that Transport NI is preparing to deliver a winter service this year.”

She said that despite the cuts, a wide range of road improvement and maintenance schemes are planned or already complete in the Mid & East Antrim council area.

Of the numerous schemes she highighted was the A26 scheme to dual 7.8km of the Frosses Road between Glarryford crossroads and Drones Road which will continue for another 28 months, with completion expected in summer 2017; the early completion of the roundabout at the Cromkill Road/Ballee Road West junction; the completion of a scheme to improve driver sightlines on the western side of Rathkeel Road at its junction with Lisnamurrican Road, Broughshane; and the £130k Ballee Park and Ride extension which has increased the number of spaces available from 87 to 136 and includes improved footway links plus the introduction of a pedestrian refuge island on Antrim Road.

Ms Mackle also welcomed the announcement earlier in the day that £450,000 is to be spent on improving the junction of the Cullybackey and Woodtown Roads.