Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has set out the changes needed over the next decade and beyond for transport delivery.
The Minister published the Department’s priorities for the future of transport – Planning for the Future of Transport – Time for Change, which is about refocusing and reprioritising the aims of the Department for Infrastructure to meet the needs of new and emerging challenges facing our communities.
Minister Mallon said: “Reprioritisation of our aims and actions is necessary to meet the needs of new and emerging challenges. Climate change is a key and obvious driver for change. Now, more than ever, we need to do more and do it faster. COVID has also shown us a future with less traffic on our streets and made us appreciate our own neighbourhoods and surroundings. There is a real growing desire and genuine need not to return to the ‘old normal’. Now is the time for change.
While my ambitions are clear, I have to be honest, in order to deliver on those ambitions, my department’s way of working and priorities have to change. This road map is designed to implement that change. In order for us to deliver the change our communities and citizens deserve, we have to be up for the challenge of change ourselves.
We also need to be more proactive in planning and design which necessitates meaningful collaboration with a wide range of partners. We all know what works in principle but we have to be sensitive to local considerations and preferences.
We must also change our approach in securing genuine integration between the planning of land use and transport infrastructure – that can reduce the need for motorised travel in the longer term”
Too Slow To Change
The Minister said she will turn the curve and instigate change: “Up to this point here in Northern Ireland we have been too slow to change and while we are committed and can see the merits of greener and more sustainable travel choices, we have fallen short when it comes to delivery. Our streets in urban areas are often dominated by vehicles, either moving or parked. That needs to become the past not the future. Now is the time for a reset, a refocus and a renewed effort to make change happen.
I am determined to lead this change from the front guiding my Department to work in a different way, putting the right schemes in the right place. The focus is on the changes we need to make working inside and outside government and with transport providers so that we collectively deliver societal, environmental and economic objectives. The streets in our cities, towns and villages are shared social spaces as well as links for cycles, buses, lorries and cars. Our challenge is first to reduce the need to travel and then to change behaviour away from polluting and carbon intensive modes to cleaner and more healthy ways of getting around – the best is walking, wheeling and cycling.
If we can grasp opportunities now and take the bold and necessary steps, we will deliver what is needed for more effective transport systems which lead to better health, environmental and societal outcomes.”
The Planned Return of Full Vehicle Testing Services
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced that the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) is planning to resume full vehicle testing services from 26 July.
In light of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, which has enabled a number of close contact services to resume including driving tests, the DVA has carried out a review of its current vehicle testing processes in order to return to its normal 20 minute test slot for cars and light goods vehicles. Currently, vehicle testing templates are configured for 25 minutes in line with the control measures that were introduced to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
To manage the transition to full service delivery, Temporary Exemption Certificates (TECs) for all qualifying vehicles will be extended by one further month. New TECs or extensions to existing TECs will be applied automatically to enable vehicles to be taxed and kept on the road.
Minister Mallon said: “Over recent months the DVA has worked hard to increase its vehicle testing capacity but has been working at a reduced capacity due to the safety measures it introduced to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
“The DVA is taking steps to reinstate its normal vehicle test times from 26 July, which will allow all vehicles to be brought forward for a test. This will be kept under ongoing review depending on the course of the epidemic.
“The DVA is in the process of revising its risk assessments, which will include appropriate mitigation measures, and will engage on them with staff and Trade Union representatives.
“Existing TECs applied to eligible private cars, light goods vehicles and motorcycles aged 4-9 years will be extended by a further month from the date the existing exemption ends. Four year old cars and motorcycles and three year old light goods vehicles due a first time test will have a five month TEC applied from the date their first MOT is due.”
Continuing the Minister said: “Road safety remains a significant priority. I would like to remind owners and drivers of all vehicles that they are responsible under the law for the roadworthiness of their vehicle at all times. The expectation from the Department, the PSNI and the Association of British Insurers is that motorists continue to service their vehicle and carry out basic checks such as looking out for brake wear, ensuring that all lights are working and regularly checking their tyre pressure and tread depth.
“As before, extensions to TECs will be added to the DVA system, not issued in hard copy. For all vehicles with TECs applied, the DVA will issue a reminder notice to the registered keeper of the vehicle before the TEC period ends, with instructions on how to book a test.”
£17million for Roads Recovery Fund in 2021/22
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced £17million for a Roads Recovery Fund from her 2021/22 capital budget.
Earlier this month the Minister announced her high level budget commitments for the new financial year which included investment of £223.1m in our roads’ network. The £17m funding for the Roads Recovery Fund will be used to address areas of immediate concern across the road network.
Minister Mallon said: “Since taking office last year, I have been clear that my priorities include addressing regional imbalance and better connecting communities. This is particularly important when considering the infrastructure associated with rural development. Our rural areas, including our towns and villages, have a key role to play in supporting economic growth and enhanced rural living. Connectivity is a key issue for these areas and I recognise the important role that the rural road network plays.
“There has been historical under-investment in the maintenance of our road network for a significant number of years and many rural roads in particular are in need of repairs. In response, I allocated £12 million of my 2020-21 Capital budget to a Roads Recovery Fund, of which £10 million was specifically directed towards rural roads.
“Following the success of last year’s fund, I am setting up an enhanced fund in 2021-22 and therefore I have allocated £17 million of my capital budget to a Roads Recovery Fund, of which £15 million is specifically directed towards rural roads.
“Rural roads will therefore benefit from a 50% increase in funding in this initiative, reflecting my commitment to continue this important work to benefit rural communities.
“My Department is committed to delivering the best possible services with the funds available. Details of our works programmes will be provided in the reports presented by Divisional Roads Managers to the various District Councils at the forthcoming round of spring meetings.”