Northern Ireland news

Warning over £1bn backlog in north's road maintenance budget

Chris Hazzard said some rural roads have not been resurfaced in over a decade. Picture by Hugh Russell
Lesley-Anne McKeown, Press Association

THERE is a £1 billion backlog in Stormont's road maintenance budget, the infrastructure minister has rev

Chris Hazzard told MLAs some rural roads had not been resurfaced in more than a decade.

The minister said his department would be rethinking the allocation of funds.

He said: "I am under no illusion, and I don't think anybody is, that in no stretch of the imagination are we going to address a £1 billion backlog in road maintenance.

"In my time as infrastructure minister, over the next five years, there needs to be a generational approach; a more strategic approach to how we do this and how we budget and finance for roads maintenance.

"It is one thing designing new roads projects; we also have to be mindful of the road network which we currently have and I will be doing all in my power to set in place a new strategic framework for how we finance for roads maintenance."

The Sinn Fein minister was speaking during Question Time at the assembly.

SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley said the £10 million budget to fix rural roads "did not seem to go far enough".

She said there were also particular problems with markings on rural roads which had all but disappeared.

Meanwhile, Mr Hazzard also revealed there were no plans to build a new railway halt at George Best Belfast City Airport.

He said: "I have started preparations for the development of a new Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan.

"The plan will provide an opportunity to consider the role private cars, trains, buses and taxis can all play in connecting the Belfast City Airport.

"However, linking the airport more directly by rail may not indeed necessarily be the best way to serve this important gateway in the shorter term, particularly as it is currently served by a very frequent recently upgraded bus service to and from the city centre."

DUP MLA Alex Easton asked whether a dedicated airport train halt could help attract more investors into the region.

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