Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy, discussed the success of the park-and-ride facilities at Sprucefield during today’s Question Time. The scheme was developed for the convenience of workers commuting to the City Centre and to ease traffic congestion in the area. The Sprucefield site is operating close to its 320 vehicle capacity and there are plans in place to extend the site to accommodate 650 vehicles. The Minister is also giving consideration to extending the M1 bus lane in an effort to reduce bus journey times and attract more commuters to the service. In the next few years there are plans for further park-and-ride facilities in Lisburn, Ballymoney, Whiteabbey, Cullybackey, Moira, Nallymartin, Portadown and Lurgan.
Mr Kennedy then answered David McNarry’s question about how much is spent on road maintenance in relation to the amount raised in vehicle road tax. Mr McNarry highlighted shortfalls of £44m and £23m in recent years that have not been re-invested on our roads, asking if the Minister will be making efforts to obtain the transfer of excise duty. The Minister declared that this was a challenge he would “have no difficulty in attempting, but I assume that it will mean that I will be actively engaged with DFP and Executive colleagues as we seek to make that change and see whether benefit could therefore be accrued”. The Minister also talked of the occasions when utility companies perform work on the roads but do not return the road to a satisfactory condition for taxpayers. Mr Kennedy said that “of course, if there are cases where the repair work carried out by any of the utility companies, or, indeed, anyone else, is found to be unsatisfactory or substandard, we are very active in ensuring that that work is done to an acceptable level, even if it means insisting that contractors return.”
During listed questions the Minister answered queries on the Belfast Rapid Transit System, the Borewell Scheme and street lighting. During topical questions the Minister answered further questions on the Magherafelt Bypass, gully emptying, security measures in car parks and plans for the growth of public transport.