FURTHER bad news for motorists here has been spelled out – as Transport NI have revealed that potholes on rural roads will not be fixed until further notice.
Budget cuts have hampered its to maintain the infrastructure here, and department chiefs have told councillors in Enniskillen that they have been forced to deal with a budget cut of £30m across the North.
And, with Fermanagh’s heavy reliance on a rural roads network, the county is likely to be left worse off than urban areas.
Potholes, streetlights, hedge cutting and white lining are among the areas to be hit by the reduced budget, described as ‘unmanageable’ by a local councillor.
Manager for Transport NI’s Western Division, which includes Fermanagh, Conor Loughrey, met with councillors in Enniskillen to discuss the cuts, and admitted that he expected disappointment.
The clear message from Mr Loughrey was that repair and maintenance work will be hampered: Restraints will be in place throughout pothole repair; grass cutting; gully emptying; winter maintenance; street lighting repair and maintenance; weed spraying and white line renewal.
The ‘resource budget’ allocated to Transport NI is currently at £12.8m, which, according to Mr Loughrey is around £30m less than what they would have typically been granted in the past.
Transport NI is working to provide what was described as a ‘skeletal service’, based largely with its in-house contractor – with no permission to order work from external contractors.
And, Sinn Fein Councillor, Brian McCaffrey, was left in dismay following the meeting.
“I don’t even know where I’d start with the most disappointing aspect of it. We have a situation where Road Service can not do what are essentially ‘most do items’, ie maintain the network and maintain the services that are there. It is unmanageable. A department and a service cannot be made to work on that basis.”
He added: “In Fermanagh we’re totally road dependent – there’s nothing else in terms of infrastructure. The main thing is the failure to repair the small rural roads. It would affect a significant number of people in this county. There’s all sorts of issues of health and safety here,” he added.
Mr Loughrey told the council chamber in Enniskillen: “I expect that we got invited here this evening because Transport NI staff on the ground are not able to agree to carry out certain works in these functional areas. Unfortunately I have to report that their approach is quite correct because Transport NI quite simply does not have the financial resources available to do what we would like to do or indeed what we have historically done.”
He added that there will be a strong bid for additional in year funding, and that if successful the skeletal service will be reviewed.