Rural Road Network: Underfunding

Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:15 pm on 1st November 2021.

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Photo of Deborah Erskine Deborah Erskine DUP 12:15 pm, 1st November 2021

My local newspapers recently carried stories about large potholes, most notably outside Magheraveely in rural Fermanagh. There was a front-page story that showed a man who was able to crouch down inside a pothole. That story is not unique to Fermanagh and South Tyrone; it is common to all rural constituencies, where it feels that there has been chronic underfunding of our rural road network.

I was delighted to hear the Minister state that £10 million will go to our rural road network, but it feels like Groundhog Day with images such as this on front pages. Roads have craters rather than surfaces that are fit for any vehicle to travel along. That is not acceptable. People have damaged their cars, tyres have been wrecked, and road accidents have even been caused as a result of that. That results in extra costs to vehicle owners at a time of high fuel costs.

Rural people feel that there are road inequalities. I ask this question: where is our rural road fund? In Enniskillen, we have been told about the progress that has been made on the Enniskillen southern bypass, but I believe that funding has not been ring-fenced for the entirety of the project. That project would significantly improve infrastructure in the town centre and reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by reducing congestion.

It is time for the Minister to take action to address my constituents' concerns about the rural road network and to ensure that the pots of money and million-pound investments mentioned in shiny announcements reach the most-affected areas. The Department is tied up in legal challenges, and, ultimately, this is affecting my constituents on the ground. We need to wake up to the reality that we have a poor road network, through no fault of DFI divisions on the ground. I hope that the Minister will listen and that she will create further actions in her Department to solve this issue.