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Busiest roads are unsafe and sub-standard, NRA admits

Poor road surfaces are now being officially linked with as many as 12 road deaths each year

MANY of the nation's busiest roads are unsafe and sub-standard, the head of the National Roads Authority (NRA) admitted yesterday.

Poor road surfaces are now being officially linked with as many as 12 road deaths every year. But with so many state agencies involved there is confusion over who is responsible for the situation.

The stark warning from NRA chief executive Fred Barry comes as the budget for road improvements continues to be cut in the wake of government spending cutbacks.

Mr Barry yesterday blew the whistle on the shocking extent of our unsafe national roads network and told a Dail committee the problem was due to a lack of funding.

The roads were mainly the national secondary routes -- which account for thousands of kilometres -- but also include sections of the national primary routes between Dublin and the main cities and towns which have yet to be upgraded, said Mr Barry.

"A lot of the older roads are not properly designed, particularly the secondary routes but also those on national secondary routes. The issue here is one of funds. We would like to be making more improvements."

Mr Barry made it clear that he was not referring to the new network of motorways and dual-carriageways linking Dublin with Galway, Limerick, Cork, Waterford and the Border and said that these were safely designed. But many secondary roads and some primary roads had sub-standard design.

"Many of our national roads do not come close to meeting design and construction standards," he told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport.

Typical deficiencies included poor road-making material, inadequate roads alignment, poor visibility, bad drainage, inadequate crossing points and deficient pavements.

"Much of the unimproved national road network is not up to standard," he disclosed.

And Mr Barry warned that there was confusion over "who is responsible for what" when it comes to the nation's roads. A raft of agencies are involved, including the local authorities, the NRA, the Road Safety Authority (RSA), the National Transport Authority, and the Department of Transport.

Mr Barry said that with the money available they were making steady progress, but much of the unimproved roads network was still sub-standard. Long road sections were being upgraded as funding permitted.

Last year, three grieving families claimed before the committee that the deaths of their daughters in separate crashes were due to poor road surfaces with no proper warning signs or speed restrictions.

The roads authority chief extended his sympathies to the three families. He said the roads that had been newly built or upgraded in recent years had good safety ratings.

RSA chief executive Noel Brett told the committee that as many as 12 people died on roads where the condition of the road was a major contributory factor.

In 2008, 12 such deaths were linked to the condition of the road, while it was a factor in eight road deaths in 2009.

"This is not good enough," said Mr Brett. "If something is wrong we have to put it right and make sure there are no further accidents."

Labour TD Joe Costello described the revelations by Mr Barry as "devastating" as they raised serious questions about the dangerous state of many of the country's roads.

Irish Independent