Northern Ireland saw a 30% increase in road deaths last year after maintenance budgets were slashed the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) has said, as it warned driver safety was being ‘fatally compromised’.
In the 12 months from May 2013, 61 people lost their lives on Northern Ireland’s roads while the following 12 months when spending reductions bit into the Department for Regional Development, which is responsible for the nation’s roads, this figure rose by 30% to 79.
Transport minister Danny Kennedy revealed last August that under a total £78m of Stormont cuts, his department had to cut spending by 4.4% - £15m - and in the first phase would stop issuing new work instructions to private contractors.
This covered areas including pothole repairs, road marking maintenance and gully emptying as well as cancelling funding for external contractors to repair streetlights that failed - unless they posed an electrical hazard to members of the public.
The cuts came against the backdrop of a welfare reform dispute that could cost the Northern Ireland Assembly even more cash this year if a deal is not reached.
The RSMA said they had warned of the likelihood of increasing risks to public safety, highlighting that safety markings were already in poor repair across the Northern Ireland network.
A survey of white lines carried out by the RSMA last year found on average 68% of white lines were in need of urgent or scheduled repair, rising to 97% for dual carriageways. This is compared to the Highways England-maintained network where the figure was 47% and for English local authority roads at 50%.
In a statement, the RSMA said it would ‘undertake an urgent 10-day review of to assess the quality of road markings across Northern Ireland, shipping specialist monitoring equipment over on 22 June, and working a network of strategic as well as local roads’.
‘Northern Ireland already had some of the worst-maintained road markings in the UK according to our last research,’ said RSMA director George Lee.
‘Having previously expressed concern over the condition of road markings in Northern Ireland we are seriously alarmed that the failure to maintain any significant road markings over the last nine months and the failure to reach a settlement on the welfare funding crisis means that the safety of drivers in Northern Ireland is being fatally compromised.
'The Executive needs to put aside political point scoring and focus on its responsibility for the lives and livelihoods of voters and taxpayers,’ he adds.
At the time of writing the Department for Regional Development was unavailable for comment.