Wednesday, 7 November 2018
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Road Improvement Schemes
I thank the Minister for coming. I will say one thing for him - he is one of the few senior Ministers who comes here to answer questions in Topical Issues debates. We might criticise him correctly on other issues, but we appreciate him being here.
My colleague, Deputy Scanlon, and I are here again to bring to the Minister's attention the deficits on one of the national primary routes in Roscommon. It is the section of the N4 between Carrick-on-Shannon and Boyle, on which I am sure the Minister has travelled. If he has not, I invite him to do so in the next week or two in order that he can have a good look at it. A number of junctions on it cause grave concern. Deputy Scanlon and I will highlight the right turn to Knockvicar and the left turn to Croghan. There is a mounting number of accidents, in which people are injured, at these junctions. It is an urgent matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, which should formulate a plan as quickly as possible. I know that the council and councillors in the region have been highlighting the matter from as early as 2010 when there was a campaign about the issue, but nothing was done. We need lining improvements on the road at the junctions mentioned. In the meantime, we know that a flashing sign telling motorists to slow down has been effective on the N5. Such a project could be considered in the short term as I understand such signs are not very expensive.
I will hand over shortly to my colleague, Deputy Scanlon, but I am making a personal appeal to the Minister to take this matter most seriously. It might be argued that accidents are not registered at the locations, but, unfortunately, some people do not report minor accidents. I urge people to do so. If we do not act, there will be loss of life at the junctions mentioned. Many people have been injured at them, particularly in recent years. I, therefore, urge the Minister to get TII to deal with the matter as soon as possible.
I will not repeat Deputy Eugene Murphy's comments, but I emphasise the problem at the junctions in question. I have photographs of them which I will give to the Minister when I finish. According to TII, this section of road is recognised as a collision-prone zone, HD15. It is a straight stretch of the N4 that is perhaps two miles long. When cars are turning right and crossing the L1015, Cootehall road, the main road to Drumshanbo, or the L1024, Croghan road, the main road to Roscommon town, the drivers are taking their lives in their hands. The car behind them is not the problem but rather the car two or three back. It is a 100 km/h zone and the cars behind are speeding. The drivers may not realise there is a car in the middle of the road which is looking to turn right and could overtake it. That is what cause the accidents.
A process takes place every year to investigate collision-prone zones. This is the time to seek a resolution in order that next year we can ensure people will able to cross the road safely without taking their lives in their hands. Otherwise, tragically, somebody will be injured or killed at these junctions.
I thank both Deputies for raising this important matter. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding for the national roads programme, but the planning, design and implementation of individual national road projects are matters for Transport Infrastructure Ireland under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects are matters, in the first instance, for Tll, in accordance with section 19 of the Roads Act. Ireland has just under 100,000 km of road in its network and the maintenance and improvement of national, regional and local roads place a substantial financial burden on local authorities and the Exchequer. As a result of the national financial position, there were very large reductions in the Exchequer funding available for roads expenditure after the financial crisis. The capital plan, Building on Recovery, for the period 2016 to 2021 and the capital plan review allocations mark a significant step forward in restoring funding to the levels needed to maintain the road network in a "steady state" condition and allow for investment in road improvement schemes.
Minor improvement schemes were included in the road safety strategy. TII is maintaining an ongoing rolling programme of minor projects. To date, 42 minor schemes have been completed. Available funding has allowed TII to maintain delivery on a minimum of four schemes each year and to prepare additional schemes on an ongoing basis. I understand that TII envisage continuing to undertake a minimum of four schemes a year. County Roscommon has four schemes included in TII's rolling programme of minor projects. The N61 Coolteige scheme is currently under construction and the N60 at Oran, the N61 from Ballymurray to Knockcroghery and the N61 from Clashnaganny to Tulsk are currently at various stages of the design process.
The section of the N4 referred to by the Deputies includes two junctions on the N4 at Croghan and Cootehill. These junctions were identified through the HD15 safety programme and improvements were made by Roscommon County Council in late 2016 and early 2017 in terms of signage and lining improvements, including arrows. The junctions will be the subject of ongoing assessment under the HD15 programme, the results of which will be communicated to Roscommon County Council for follow up action, if required.
The programme remains in place and if further works are considered necessary the local authority can again carry out a feasibility report. The minors programme referred to is also available to deal with the bigger schemes identified through this HD15 process and also to address other safety, capacity and alignment concerns.
I am not an insulting person to anybody and I will not be insulting to the Minister or his officials, but I am looking at the Minister's reply and it is all about budgets. It is telling us about works that were carried out which are useless and the engineers in Roscommon County Council will tell the Minister that they are useless.
This is about lives, families and people. This is not about the type of press release which the Minister has given us today.
I challenge the Minister to come down on that route with Deputy Scanlon and me. It is not acceptable to put this on the long finger. The work that was carried out there is not sufficient. In the name of God I ask the Minister please to think about people and lives. He knows about the volume of traffic that is on that road, how it is increasing all of the time and how all of the Sligo and Donegal traffic comes on that route as well. This is a deathtrap, make no mistake about it, as are several junctions along the N4 and N5.
Despite the Minister mentioning four projects in Roscommon which we welcome and which are ongoing, nothing is being done with the junctions off the N4 and N5 which seriously need work. I am putting it on record that more lives will be lost on those routes unless the Minister takes action as quickly as possible.
I note what the Minister said on the work that has been carried out with signage. I know that work has been carried out because of the work of local councillors such as Rachel Doherty, John Cummins and John Murphy, but unfortunately it is not enough. I propose a traffic calming measure at that particular part of the road as a solution because as Deputy Eugene Murphy has said, if something is not done, there will be a fatality and there is no doubt about that.
I plead with the Minister to meet us there if he comes to the area and we will show him exactly what we are talking about.
I fully understand the passion with which the Deputies have described the problems on their roads and I share that worry. It would be my wish and the wish of anybody in government who is committed to road safety to address any issues of this sort all around the country. I have not seen this road and at some stage I would be happy to see it but I take the word of the Deputies that it is dangerous because there are issues of danger throughout Ireland on the extraordinarily large number of roads that we have.
TII runs the schemes which I have described and it identifies a certain number every year which are priorities. The Deputies rightly say that nowhere can be prioritised because by leaving anywhere unattended, lives are being risked and that is true. Putting a motorcar on the road is risking lives.
I have not seen figures because the Deputies did not produce them in this debate which disappointed me. If they could produce for me figures for accidents, collisions, dangers and incidents that have happened on this particular stretch of road to which they refer, I will ask TII to look at it, but it has to be backed up with figures, facts, incidents and events for this to happen.