Department for Regional Development publishes draft budget

By Martin Cassidy
BBC NI rural affairs correspondent


The Department for Regional Development has made its draft budget available for consultation.

Road building is the biggest casualty with budget reductions meaning the A6 Randalstown to Castledawson, the A2 Greenisland and York street flyover projects will have to wait.

There are worries that a £200m shortfall in the maintenance budget will mean more potholes in the roads network, leaving surfaces less resilient to freeze-and-thaw cycles and flooding.

Northern Ireland Railways will get 20 new trains and Translink some replacement buses.

The fragile nature of our water system is recognised with funds earmarked to rehabilitate 900km of water mains. However, from 2012-2014 only around three-quarters of the planned investment will take place.

Motorists also face the introduction of higher parking charges and penalties. Charges will increase by an average 15% per year while penalties for parking illegally will also increase.

Parking attendants

And parking ticket rage will no longer be a big city phenomenon, charging for on-street parking is to extend to every town across Northern Ireland.

The extension of charging hours for all car parks and pay and display zones is also being considered.

But don't count on more orderly streets as a result, the budget cuts will see a reduction in the number of parking attendants.

Other cuts will see a reduction in rural and disability transport services, while commuters may worry that a reduction in Translink's subsidy may translate into higher bus fares.

For Northern Ireland's most remote community, a reduction in the Rathlin island ferry subsidy can only add to their feeling of isolation.

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