Pothole apocalypse - dire warnings for Mid Ulster roads

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Ruptured, crumbling roads, defunct street lighting, blocked road gullies and motorists’ lives put at risk - that’s the dire prediction for Mid Ulster’s network of rural roads.

At Thursday’s monthly meeting of the new council, councillors passed a motion calling on Roads Minister Danny Kennedy to outline how he was going to ensure basic roads maintenance services in the Mid Ulster area in the light of drastic cuts to the budget.

Last month, the UUP minister warned that the repair of potholes could be affected as a result of £60m being cut from his departmental budget over the next year.

He said: “As it stands my budget does not provide for sufficient service provision in areas like repair of potholes and traffic lights and other measures such as gully emptying and grass cutting at junctions.

“As a result, TransportNI has no option other than to cut back on the routine maintenance of the network. There will be no funding available for external contractors to carry out routine road maintenance, however, the Departments’ internal workforce will be providing a skeleton service.”

Proposing the motion, Sinn Fein Councillor Ronan McGinley warned of serious flaws in local roads and the increased risk of accidents.

“We’ve a pothole about four feet wide in my own area, and I am genuinely worried that it will cause buses and lorries to go off the road.

“Unfortunately, the response from the roads service has not been good enough.

“We also have serious street lighting concerns with the rural network not being extended, lights not replaced, no road gully emptying, and maintenance vehicles sitting idle because the minister cannot afford to put diesel in them.”

Independent Republican Councillor Barry Monteith supported the motion.

“At the minute, it’s a pointless exercise ringing the road engineers because their hands are tied.

“The public are massively dismayed with the situation. They are having to put traffic cones in potholes to ensure the safety of local road users.”

Councillor Monteith also highlighted issues to do with the Public Realm scheme in Dungannon town centre, and issues to do with disabled access and kerbing still unresolved. 
“The performance of roads service has been absolutely shocking”, he said.

DUP Councillor Kim Ashton branded the situation ‘ridiculous’.

“You can’t get the smallest job done. It’s up to the department to find ways of working within its budget. People are getting extremely annoyed”, she said.

Her party colleague Paul McLean remarked that the cut to the budget amounted to just 0.6% and said it was up to the minister to deliver effective services.

The motion was supported by all parties in the council chamber except the UUP.

It stated in full: “This council notes with great concern that following recent communications with

Officials from Transport NI, smaller local roads are no longer to be maintained.

“The local section engineer has confirmed that potholes will no longer be filled. This follows announcements that the street lighting network is not to be extended, street lights will not be repaired unless in extreme circumstances, road gully emptying to be significantly reduced, grass cutting in towns no longer funded and off street car parks have transferred to council with inadequate maintenance budgets.

“That this council writes to Minister Danny Kennedy and ask him what measures he intends to put in place to reassure the citizens of Mid Ulster that he can deliver the basic services they deserve.”