The current budget crisis could cost thousands of construction jobs, East Londonderry MLA and SDLP Regional Development Spokesperson John Dallat has warned.
Mr Dallat said that the commitment to building a new transport infrastructure and maintaining the current one will be the first casualty of the need to find additional resources for the faltering health service now in apparent crisis. He predicts that this will lead to thousands of people losing their jobs in road maintenance alone.
Mr Dallat said: “It will lead to a rapid increase in road injuries and deaths and it will cancel, for many years, the absolute necessity to create a decent transport infrastructure in economically and socially deprived areas where it is increasingly difficult to attract new inward investment because of the poor transport links with the airports and seaports.”
The local MLA, who is meeting construction industry representatives next week, continued: “Due to British government cuts and the incompetence of the two parties running the Executive for their own political ends it is not just the health service that will be in crisis. The commitment to address the historical discrimination in transport infrastructure, which is badly needed to seriously address economic and social disadvantage, will fade into the mist. This is already evident by the utterances of the Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy that he will not have the money to fund basic maintenance costs.
“Apart from the underfunding of the roads programme there is widespread concern that the continuing need to invest in the railways will also be a casualty and that would be very unfortunate given the huge success in attracting people from road to rail in recent years. The renaissance of the railways has been a remarkable achievement brought about by new investment in trains and renewal of the permanent way.
“The flagship project in all this has to be the Belfast-Derry railway which was scheduled for closure a few years ago during a previous economic crisis. It has exceeded all expectations but still needs substantial investment to achieve an hourly service between Derry and Belfast. Due to its success there is also the need to increase passenger capacity to accommodate the ever-increasing number of people choosing rail travel.
“The current crisis in the health service will impact on all of us but so too will other services which play a key role in creating jobs and wealth for our people and in particular for those who are unemployed or about to lose their jobs as a direct result of Tory policies coupled with gross incompetence of the power brokers within the Executive.”