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Northern Ireland forced into road pricing

NORTHERN IRELAND'S Assembly has revealed plans to introduce road pricing after admitting it only has enough cash to 'shore up a crumbling road and rail system' (NCE 10 August).

A spokesman for the Assembly told NCE this week that schemes such as congestion charging in Belfast were now inevitable as its £460M settlement alone could only keep parts of the road and rail system open in the short term.

A feasibility study into new charging options from consultants Transport & Travel Research will feed into the assembly's 10 year transport plan for the province next spring. The plan is expected to outline an extra £2bn investment in road and rail over the next 10 years.

The spokesman said: 'The budget is 10% up on last year and rail spending is up by £20M this year to £35M which is a good start.' But he added: 'In the longer term we will find new sources of funding such as congestion charging, road tolling and public private partnerships.'

A source at Northern Ireland's roads service said it was disappointed by the £3.8M increase in funds for structural road maintenance. The recent Northern Ireland Audit Office report said that annual funding needed to double from £40M to £80M.

He added: 'This settlement contrasts very poorly with the £30bn that England's local authorities are going to get for road maintenance over the next 10 years. With the cost of maintenance going up, it will only allow us to keep pace with patching up rather than resurfacing.'

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