Tuesday 19 June 2018

Potholes central? Pressure increases on Shane Ross over 'dreadful' state of roads

'The Government has failed to deliver on this commitment and the end result is terrible surface conditions for road users right across the country'

Transport Minister Shane Ross is coming under increasing pressure over the ‘terrible’ surface conditions for road users in rural areas. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Transport Minister Shane Ross is coming under increasing pressure over the ‘terrible’ surface conditions for road users in rural areas. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fianna Fáil is ramping up pressure on Transport Minister Shane Ross over the state of roads in rural Ireland, ahead of the much-hyped launch of the National Development Plan.

The main Opposition party is to seek at least an extra €163m for maintaining the road network and a fresh plan for road upkeep.

It is also demanding Mr Ross then provides quarterly progress reports on the plan's implementation to the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil's move to focus on roads is seen as politically strategic. The Irish Independent understands the unhappiness over the condition of rural roads is shared by a significant number of backbenchers in Fine Gael.

A recent study carried out by the National Oversight and Audit Commission found that almost 70pc of regional roads have serious structural and surface defects.

The issue has been raised by several Fine Gael TDs at recent party meetings, with some expressing a view that Mr Ross has prioritised spending on Dublin Bus over roads.

A Dáil debate will come ahead of Friday's launch of the Government's €115bn capital investment plan, which will set out key spending areas for the next decade.

Every minister has been ordered to attend the launch at Sligo IT as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar plans for a day that will be "bigger than the Budget".

Potholes in Enniskeane, Co Cork
Potholes in Enniskeane, Co Cork

A special Cabinet meeting will be held to sign off on the document before an event involving all 14 senior ministers and 19 junior ministers.

"Every minister is being invited. This will be bells and whistles. There's €115bn to be announced so it's bigger than the Budget," a source said.

Potholes in Tipperary Town
Potholes in Tipperary Town

Upgrades

It is understood the controversial strategic communications unit has been working heavily on the project in the background. Sources say it will roll out detailed information on the dozens of projects the Government plans to fund over the next decade.

Potholes in Connemara
Potholes in Connemara

These include new roads, railway extensions, schools, hospitals and airport upgrades.

Fianna Fáil's transport spokesman Robert Troy said the failure by Government to invest in road infrastructure had left local and regional roads in "a dreadful state".

"This has led to serious safety concerns for road users and increased maintenance costs to motorists," he said. "Over the last five years the Government has on average provided local authorities with less than half the amount of funding they need to maintain their roads.

"This is despite a commitment made in the Programme for Government to increase the capital budget for regional and local roads by approximately 50pc.

"The Government has failed to deliver on this commitment and the end result is terrible surface conditions for road users right across the country."

The Longford/Westmeath representative said TDs from all parties were "inundated with complaints" from road users.

Already it is known that the capital plan will provide funding for the M20 Limerick to Cork motorway.

Cabinet ministers will meet this morning to decide whether to formally oppose Fianna Fáil's motion.

Potholes

Earlier this year, Independent.ie spoke to Adrian Reynolds from Killeigh, Co Offaly who posted a picture to his local group’s Facebook of a potholed road outside his rural home.

The video shows Adrian struggling to drive through the crumbling road as it is covered with potholes and water on both sides.

“In Ireland we are meant to drive on the left of the road, but here we drive on what’s left,” Adrian said. “It’s pure rubble on the road now. It’s crumbling and all that’s left is muck, gravel and water.

"It’s a fairly extreme situation all over Offaly. The freezing and wet weather we got recently has really made the conditions worse. I’m actually shocked how much it has deteroriated.”

Adrian added that "patchwork" jobs have been done to his road  in recent years but wants a whole resurfacing to be done.

“It has completely crumbled and it’s the same situation when you come off all the main roads on to secondary roads, even the main street of Tullamore is in a bad way. Something has to be done soon," he urged.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section