Irish News

Thursday 31 July 2014

Motorway network 'could be on road to ruin' unless extra €100m found for repair work

Paul Melia, Environment Correspondent

Published 26/05/2014|02:30

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The National Roads Authority (NRA) says as much as one-third of the national network – 1,800km – is in 'fair or poor' condition and needs maintenance to prevent further deterioration.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) says as much as one-third of the national network – 1,800km – is in 'fair or poor' condition and needs maintenance to prevent further deterioration.
Fred Barry

ROAD bosses need €100m in additional funding every year to prevent the motorway network from falling into disrepair.

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The National Roads Authority (NRA) says as much as one-third of the national network – 1,800km – is in 'fair or poor' condition and needs maintenance to prevent further deterioration.

And a failure to provide the necessary funding will result in the road network becoming as badly degraded over time as our creaking water infrastructure, NRA chief executive Fred Barry told the Irish Independent.

He said it was "essential" to maintain investment to protect some 5,500km of primary road network.

"We are spending less and have been for the last number of years than is appropriate over the long-term," he said.

"We are still managing and we're not going to see potholes and roads sliding into verges, but we have about two-thirds of the network which is either good or in very good condition, with the balance poor or fair. But over time, the amount that's very good moves to good, and fair moves to poor.

"It's essential that capital maintenance and rehabilitation is carried out. There's an asset value of €30bn there, and it's important we retain that value. The models and surveys show that eventually you end up where the water network is at the moment – that's the ultimate price you pay for under-investment."

Some €300m has been provided to the NRA this year from the Department of Transport for capital projects, which includes funding ongoing operations and maintenance and to pay back the cost of building motorways under public-private partnerships.

The amount being provided has plummeted in recent years. In 2012, some €600m was allocated, which fell to €300m last year.

Dangerous roads or poor road conditions are a contributory factor in almost 4pc of all fatal and serious road collisions, the Road Safety Authority said.

However, the NRA stressed that the road network was not in a dangerous condition, but that repairs were needed to maintain high standards.

"We think we need about another €100m to deal with the long-term asset maintenance. It is clearly a lot of money, but state funding for networks in other countries the size of Ireland would be about €800m – €1bn a year," Mr Barry said.

"A national road network in a small but advanced economy is expensive."

Roads are designed to last up to 40 years, but the pavement, or surface, needs to be replaced at intervals. Heavily-trafficked roads, or routes subjected to extreme weather including flooding, must be addressed more frequently.

Failure to make repairs results in further deterioration, which can be more expensive to address.

The NRA said that maintenance was designed to ensure the network was kept in a "satisfactory" condition, reduce delays to motorists and make sure the value of the network did not degrade.

The State has spent €17bn over the past decade upgrading the network, including building new motorways and dual carriageways.

Irish Independent

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