Question Time: Regional Development - Monday 23 March 2015

What additional steps is the Regional Development Department doing to enhance road safety outside schools? Danny Kennedy, Minister for Regional Development confirmed that "my Department takes the safety of children on their journeys to and from school very seriously and has implemented a significant number of safety schemes, many through the Safer Routes to Schools programme, which was introduced in 2005. Those schemes use engineering measures to warn drivers of the presence of pupils and to reduce vehicle speeds.

The Safer Routes to Schools measures included enhanced electronic signing, road markings and coloured road surfacing to draw drivers’ attention to the presence of school children. As each school is unique, additional measures, including central islands, footpaths, lay-bys, drop-off and collection areas, and enforceable keep clear zigzags can also be considered.

My Department also provides road safety awareness and bicycle training each year in 60 schools through the Active School Travel programme, which is jointly funded by the Public Health Agency. The programme was supplemented in 2014-15 with additional capital funding of £1 million, which provided infrastructure near or en route to a number of schools with the aim of encouraging safe active travel for the school journey. That included the widening of footways, new and improved crossing facilities, and new cycle tracks".

Mr Attwood MLA asked the Minister how his Department planned for the impact the recent increase in fares by Translink is having on passengers. The Minister said, "given the difficult financial context facing Translink this year and next, unfortunately the recent fare increase — the first since January 2013 — was unavoidable. It should, however, be recognised that, since coming to office, I have ensured that fares have increased at around half the rate of inflation. Translink is also continuing to promote the various smart ticketing options, which will help to reduce the impact of the recently introduced fare increases on passengers. For example, an annual rail ticket includes a substantial discount for a regular commuter.

No one, myself included, wanted to see the recent fare increase, but it has been kept to an absolute minimum. It remains the case that Translink fares compare very favourably with those in the rest of the United Kingdom and, indeed, the Republic of Ireland.

During Topical Questions the Minister answered questions on the dualling scheme between Randalstown and Castledawson, the Londonderry to Coleraine rail track project,  Mersey Street road works and when the Minister will publish the PAR review into procurement for the Derry to Coleraine rail line, albeit that he could publish a redacted version.

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