Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Northern Irleand roads mirror our politics - gridlocked

Motorists who found their journey to work in Belfast delayed yesterday morning because of a single car accident will not be surprised to learn that the city suffers some of the worst gridlock in the UK
Motorists who found their journey to work in Belfast delayed yesterday morning because of a single car accident will not be surprised to learn that the city suffers some of the worst gridlock in the UK

Editor's Viewpoint

Motorists who found their journey to work in Belfast delayed yesterday morning because of a single car accident will not be surprised to learn that the city suffers some of the worst gridlock in the UK. The accident was near the City Airport in the east of the city, but queues formed for miles on the northern approaches.

A survey reveals that drivers in the city lose the equivalent of one week every year just sitting in their vehicles, going nowhere. With all main thoroughfares leading into the city centre like the spokes of a bicycle wheel, it is almost impossible to devise a solution to the gridlock without an unacceptable level of demolition to create wider roads.

This gridlock comes at an economic cost, the loss of more than £140m in wages and productivity, and it is clear that innovative ways of encouraging motorists out of their cars are required or else the gridlock will worsen.

But there is one huge roadblock preventing any action in that direction.

As this newspaper has been pointing out for many months now, the absence of a devolved government at Stormont is creating a cancer eating away at the fabric of the province.

This is not a gratuitous criticism of the absentee politicians, but rather a recognition that without their presence nothing of note can be signed off.

Infrastructure projects of the scale of the York Street exchange, which would ease traffic flow into and out of the north of the city, or the A5 road scheme to make access from the border to Londonderry easier, cost huge sums of money and certainly no civil servant will ever consider giving them the go-ahead.

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The Secretary of State is introducing more new legislation to empower her to make public appointments, but that is only minor housekeeping when the edifice of government has already crumbled to dust.

The absence of a local administration and the delay in beginning the A5 project have allowed the Irish Government to withdraw a promised €27m for the road widening scheme. The money is now needed to plug a huge black hole in the funds for building the National Children's Hospital in the Republic.

Given the frosty relationships caused by Brexit, it would be no surprise if this cross-border gift never reappears and, even if it does, will there be a devolved administration in place, or will politics also remain gridlocked?

Belfast Telegraph

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