Government cuts budget for national road maintenance

Department of Transport announces reduction of 15% amid first big snowfalls

Winter weather: the national road maintenance budget pays for the gritting and salting of roads during snow and ice. Stock photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty

Winter weather: the national road maintenance budget pays for the gritting and salting of roads during snow and ice. Stock photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty

 

The Department of Transport has slashed the budget for maintaining national roads, including for winter storms and ice, just as the first major snowfalls are forecast for the country.

The department this month told Transport Infrastructure Ireland, which is responsible for the national road network, that the 2018 budget will be about 15 per cent lower than this year’s, or €22 million instead of €26 million. The organisation has now written to all councils, informing them of the cut.

The programme covers the maintenance of more than 5,000km of national and secondary roads. The fund covers winter maintenance, including gritting and salting roads during snow and ice; looking after lighting; and ordinary maintenance, such as repairing barriers, tending verges and collecting litter.

In its letter Transport Infrastructure Ireland emphasised that winter maintenance and route lighting offered limited scope for reductions. “TII has contractual commitments with regard to motorway and bridge maintenance contracts and salt purchase. Taking all factors into consideration, the necessity for significant cuts in the national road Ordinary Maintenance allocations to local authorities is inevitable.”

That means the budget for ordinary maintenance will be cut by 30 per cent, although the organisation has said some additional funding will be available from elsewhere.

The Department of Transport said the overall roads budget had increased for 2018 but accepted there had been cuts in the maintenance budget.

‘Truly shocking’

Fianna Fáil’s transport spokesman, Robert Troy, said Minister for Transport Shane Ross did not seem to have been aware of the change when he brought it up with him at an Oireachtas hearing.

“This revelation is truly shocking. Mr Ross has spent much of his energy in recent weeks exclaiming loudly that he secured an increase in funding for his department in Budget 2018. “Now it transpires that officials in TII are writing to local authorities to warn them that funding for roads maintenance next year will be dramatically lower than what was allocated in 2017.”

The road-maintenance budget has fallen dramatically in the past decade. Severe weather and other seasonal factors lead to some variations in budget. A value-for-money report in 2015 concluded that the programme was broadly achieving its aims.