A view of Sprucefield … pre-congestion #20yearrule

Hidden amongst the thousand or so government files released on Friday under the 20 Year Rule are some black and white photographs from the 1960s of the M1 motorway and its Sprucefield junction. Long before the days of early morning congestion at Junction 7! If you call into the Public Records Office and ask to see file DRD/5/1/9, you can flick through the large set of images.

A fresh start for the A5 – but at what cost?

Disclaimer: being a strong public transport advocate does not stop me from enjoying the open road, gliding effortlessly past slower traffic [You don’t say – Ed] Indeed – but we all have too many things to do that cannot conveniently be done by bike, bus or train… Mick has already considered the opportunity cost of the £75 million promised by the Irish Government for the A5 scheme from Newbuildings to Strabane, although I think that money could buy several Narrow … Read more

A question of chairmanship

A wee Sunday thought. Under d’Hondt, and specifically section 18 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the DUP is due to be asked to nominate the new minister for Regional Development when the Assembly reconvenes after the summer break. The current chairperson of the Committee for Regional Development is Trevor Clarke, in succession to Jimmy Spratt.  Section 29(5) of the same Act says that “in making a selection under the provision made by virtue of subsection (2)(a), a nominating officer … Read more

Committee for Regional Development has “No confidence” in the Department’s budgeting abilities

Having had a motion of no confidence in the DRD’s ability to budget passed in the Assembly last night (including recycling my own reference to Oliver Twist but not necessarily as cleverly), a relationship which has at best been difficult appears to have descended into outright hostility between the Committee for Regional Development on the one hand and the Minister, Danny Kennedy, and his Departmental officials on the other. I have written before about the difficulties faced with the 2015-16 … Read more

£1.1 billion running public transport to stand still

I have to say, I hate listening to my recorded voice, so it’s probably as well that I haven’t listened back to myself on Good Morning Ulster or Radio Foyle breakfast.  I did watch myself talking to Kevin Sharkey on BBC Newsline, which is a bad idea for the shy.  I have to thank my friend Wesley for recommending me once again. Having received an advance copy of the NIAO report into DRD: the effectiveness of public transport in Northern … Read more

No surprises as Translink warns of fare increases and service cuts

Before you keep reading this, check my earlier articles here, here, and especially here. BBC News is reporting that David Strahan, current Chief Executive of Translink, has given a gloomy outlook to the Committee for Regional Development on fare rises and service cuts.  Missing from the media reports is that their subsidy is being cut by more than £12 million, and they used £12 million in reserves last year to avoid a fare rise – so the real shortfall is … Read more

Details emerging on Translink fare rises

Hat tip to Martin Baumann, who sent me this photograph of a poster today. I’m still waiting to hear, as are all of us, what the impact in cash terms will be on Ulsterbus and Metro, beyond a statement in December that Metro cash fares (and by extension the three lowest Ulsterbus fares) would go up by 10p each – it isn’t clear, for example, whether Metro smartlink fares will also rise by 10p. Where I want to start the … Read more

Lough Neagh Working Group: “This report may never see the light of day.”

As the Belfast Telegraph reports, having set up a inter-departmental Working Group by September last year, “to explore and pursue actively the potential for a cross-departmental approach to bring Lough Neagh back into public ownership”, the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill has lost the group’s report down the back of the sofa told the DUP MLA Paul Frew that the report “is [still] going through due process”.  [It’s not for sale! – Ed]  “but if the assembly … Read more

Increasing numbers of passengers let the train take the strain … apart from a 10 year decline on the Enterprise

Monday morning’s Belfast Telegraph splashed with the front page story that passengers numbers have fallen by 22% on the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise train over the last decade. The ‘exclusive’ – based on figures in DRD’s Future Railways Investment consultation document [pdf] that was published in January – was picked up by Talkback at lunchtime as well as other news programmes. The actual consultation ended in April, though this isn’t mentioned in the paper! And in some ways, it’s never too late … Read more

DRD settles for #NIWater with an apology to Declan Gormley…

So, we are nearing the end of the story of one of the sacked directors of Northern Ireland Water, Declan Gormley. The implications of this are pretty unequivocal. But before further detailed comment over to the Minister, who stated this afternoon that… …in March 2010 some of the non-executive directors of Northern Ireland Water Limited, including Mr. Declan Gormley were dismissed from the board of that company by the then Minister for Regional Development, Mr Conor Murphy. The Department was … Read more

“the outcome of the tribunal had effectively branded him as “sectarian” and “a liar”…”

So no surprise that Sinn Fein are training some big guns on Conor Murphy’s successor at DRD, Danny Kennedy for deciding not to appeal the Equality Commission’s Fair Employment Tribunal’s ruling against the South Armagh MP… As Mr Murphy told the BBC, it leaves him in an invidious position: The Sinn Fein representative told the BBC that the outcome of the tribunal had effectively branded him as “sectarian” and “a liar” and said he did not intend to let the … Read more

“If the party was serious about fairness and equality…”

In today’s Irish News Brian Feeney addresses the Fair Employment Tribunal’s finding that, as Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, MP, MLA, discriminated against a candidate for the post of chairman of NI Water on religious grounds.  That he had appointed Sean Hogan to the post “because he was not from a Protestant background and because he was known to the Minister and his ministerial colleagues”.  That he had added three factors to the job specification criteria … Read more

Parking ticket post code lottery

portion of The Detail's parking enforcement map

Continuing the development of data journalism across at The Detail, Kathryn Torney this morning published details of where parking tickets have been issued. DRD – and their contractors NSL (formerly NCP) – have always been keen to explain that the commercial contract is about keeping streets safe and traffic free-flowing, rather than being based around revenue targets. And this story confirms this. … figures we obtained from the Department for Regional Development (DRD) show that the cost of enforcement has … Read more

Ministerial U-turn on NI Water Chief Executive’s terms

After his very well publicised threat to resign, the acting Chief Executive at Northern Ireland Water, Trevor Haslett, appears to have got what he wanted – a £20,000 pay rise [and a two year contract? – Ed].  From the BBC report A spokeswoman for the Department for Regional Development confirmed the deal. “Northern Ireland Water needs leadership and stability,” she said. “Trevor Haslett has demonstrated that he is the best person to lead NI Water through the winter that is almost … Read more

NI Water: Another Chief Executive resignation?

The BBC’s Jim Fitzpatrick reports that NI Water Chief Executive, Trevor Haslett, has “signalled that he wants to leave and return to private consultancy”.  Haslett has been in the post for almost 10 months, after stepping into the vacancy caused by the defenestration of former Chief Executive Lawrence MacKenzie.  From the BBC report NI Water was created as a state-owned company in 2004 with Ms Bryan at the helm and its structure suggested that it would ultimately be privatised. But the devolved government … Read more

Priestly’s return…

The Northern Ireland Department of Regional Development Permanent Secretary, Paul Priestly, was suspended on full pay in August last year.  The former Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Assembly, Sir Jon Shortridge, was appointed by the head of the NI Civil Service, Sir Bruce Robinson, to lead the investigation into Priestly’s role in the NI Water saga – but with somewhat restricted terms of reference.  The fall-out from that saga is now being felt in a wider political arena. Sir Jon Shortridge reportedly concluded his investigation in November. … Read more

NI Water crisis: “once this information is in the public domain, it may undermine your perceived independence…”

Following an FOI request, BBC NI’s Stephen Walker reports that the NI Commissioner for Public Appointments, Felicity Houston, has raised concerns about the OFMDFM appointments to the latest ‘independent’ review of NI Water with the head of the NI Civil Service.  That’s in addition to the Commissioner’s previously expressed concern about the NI Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy’s appointments to the interim NI Water Board. From the BBC report In a bizarre twist, staff assisting Phil Holder and Heather Moorhead’s … Read more

£16 million wasted, Hidden cost of A5.

As reported on the BBC this morning, and hi-light by Roy Beggs East Antrim MLA two weeks ago, Conor Murphy has written off £16 million spent on a scheme up-grading the A2 at Greenisland, in order to fund his politically motivated A5 white elephant in Tyrone. It is a bit strange for a Tyrone man like myself to be putting the case for an infrastructure development in Greater Belfast in preference to one in Tyrone, but the Scot’s ancestry in … Read more

NI Commissioner for Public Appointments: “We couldn’t find out how people had ended up being interviewed…”

It’s worth highlighting the comments by the NI Commissioner for Public Appointments, Felicity Huston, to the BBC NI Spotlight programme last night on the NI Water saga.  From the BBC report Felicity Huston said: “I was a bit shocked about how chaotic it was considering the importance.” Mr Murphy said he had full confidence in the process. However, Ms Huston said it was one of several conducted by DRD she had found to be unsatisfactory. The chairman of NI Water, Chris Mellor, … Read more