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Management key to roads budget

ONE often hears the comment that, while the property bubble may have been a disaster, at least we got good roads. It is in truth small consolation, but it would be unbearable if the financial crisis lost us the good roads.

The priority must always be safety.

The National Roads Authority boss is undoubtedly right to say that many part of the major road network are unsafe and sub-standard. One of the most infamous, and certainly the most inexplicable, is the remaining stretch of single carriageway on the N11 -- the only such stretch on around 300k of dual carriageway between Antrim town and Gorey.

It is a sad testament to the poor planning and political jobbery in the construction of the motorway network.

The budget for road improvement and maintenance has been slashed by a quarter this year. A cynic might suggest that the NRA is looking to its budget, but it is not necessary to take such a suspicious view.

The total budget in 2011 will still be more than €1bn. As with all government spending in present circumstances, professional decisions on where and when to spend this money must now take precedence over vote-grabbing and the placating of vested interests.

Making our roads safer, maintaining them to proper standards and improving the network should be the order of priorities. They should be achievable with the funds available but that may require serious reform of the politically-driven, ludicrously overlapping system of managing the roads programme.

Just asking for more money is not the right response.