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£165m cost to fix roads more than my entire budget, says Nichola Mallon

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Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon at the Balmoral MOT centre in Belfast.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon at the Balmoral MOT centre in Belfast.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon at the Balmoral MOT centre in Belfast.

The cash shortfall to maintain Northern Ireland's roadworks has overtaken the entire annual budget, a Stormont minister has revealed.

Each of the last three years saw £55m less than needed - a total of £165m - compared to the yearly requirement of £143m to maintain NI's roads network.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon admitted that as a result repairs and resurfacing levels to the network are not what the public deserves.

Trunk roads are being given priority, based on traffic volume, and then "as much of the remaining budget as possible" is targeted at all other, more minor, roads.

In a written Stormont answer, Ms Mallon told Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon: "I would like to deliver better for our communities and to do more maintenance on rural roads.

"I have, however, inherited severe and challenging budget constraints that continue to make it difficult to offer the level of repair and resurfacing that our roads need, and that the public deserves."

Minister Mallon said an independent report on structural maintenance of roads established an annual requirement of £143m to maintain the entire road network in the province.

"The average annual shortfall over the last five years has been £55m," she added.

The SDLP minister said the current strategy is to keep the trunk road network in good condition because of the volume of traffic it carries.

"It has been recognised over recent years that this has resulted in a long-term deterioration of the non-trunk network and officials have undertaken to review current practice in this area."

Ms Mallon said she had raised the need for additional investment in better maintenance of the roads with Finance Minister Conor Murphy of Sinn Fein. It would also help with urgent street light repairs.

A spokesman said: "The minister will be making decisions on the allocation of the funds available to her in the coming days."

A report last year by NI auditor Kieran Donnelly concluded that £50m less than is required to maintain the province's roads is being spent annually. It put the cost of the overall backlog over the last two decades at £1.2bn.

Belfast Telegraph