As the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) brought their annual Roads Western Division report to the Special Council Meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council on July 4, a number of councillors noted that road markings were disappearing “quite rapidly” in the area and queried when this would be dealt with.

Sinn Féin Councillor Anthony O’Reilly raised the issue. He said: “The road markings, the white lines on roads, seem to disappear quite rapidly, can I have some indication of how many personnel are involved in that road marking ability and how that is programmed.”

Speaking on behalf of the DfI, Sean Hackett, Western Roads Division responded: “Our own direct squad, part of the problem is plant. The staff, particularly at this time of the year are diverted to do surface testing, where the resources are most needed.”

He continued: “The contractor is coming from Downpatrick so when you ask them to come out west to do some work, it’s very difficult to encourage him until he has a mass amount of work to keep him occupied for a week or so but we do gather the work together and we are trying to encourage our fleet management to bring our plant back again so that our own in-house staff can do junctions and small scale work like that.”

Chairwoman of the Council Siobhán Currie highlighted how the road markings on speed bumps and cat’s eyes are all in “pretty poor condition.”

She added: “It’s not an issue really at this time of year but on the winter’s nights it’s very difficult to see.”

Responding to the Chairwoman, Diane Keown of the DfI Wester Roads Division said: “Our staff will have a review of the entire county, taking one route and doing one route complete at a time, they would even do night time inspections throughout the winter months to see exactly where the most defective sections are.”

Commenting that she believes the Derrylin Road is the next “to be done” followed by the Lough Shore Road, Ms. Keown continued: “The lining, it is very difficult to keep the contractor in the area, he’s dependent on favourable conditions but we do block book as much work together as we can and as you know yourself there is an awful lot of work out there to be done.”

She added: “But we are keeping on top of them and we do have contractor review meetings where we keep at them, that we’ll work with them to keep them in the area.”

Ulster Unionist Councillor Robert Irvine raised the issue that around Enniskillen it’s not only central lines and side lines but also a lot of the box junctions that are in an “appalling state.”

He commented: “They are literally disappearing. I find it hard to believe that you have a contract with Whitemountain, based in Downpatrick, but essentially they are dictating to you when they are actually doing the work. I thought you’d have more control through the contract to actually dictate to them when they do the work.”

Noting that the council’s budget for the road marking contract has been “decreased over the last couple of years,” Ms. Keown said: “So has a lot of the contractors’ budget or they’ve had to reduce their squads as per what they are expected to gain as an income. We would’ve found that with a lot of our contractors unfortunately over the past two or three years, then they have more than one contract in the area so they’re fighting between Sean, myself, they are up in the Cookstown area, they’re everywhere.”

Ms. Keown added: “But in regards to Enniskillen, the junction boxes, they’ve all been ordered and they were here at the beginning of June and they were pulled off but as I said, that work has been ordered.”

In response, Councillor Irvine commented: “But surely you can put a bit more pressure on them, it’s your job.”

Commenting on the issue, Sinn Féin Councillor Sheamus Greene said: “It definitely seems to be the tail wagging the dog that we can’t get them up here to mark roads. They are either contracted to do it or not.”

He continued: “I would say we get back on to them in the morning and I would suggest that the Council needs to supply the name of them to the councillors and we will write to them as well and maybe give them a wee ‘gee up’ to come to Fermanagh because just as the fact, are we saying that if it was a Fermanagh company that won that contract that they would wait weeks or months or possibly years before going to Downpatrick or to Bangor or any of them? I would expect not.”

Ms. Keown noted Councillor Greene’s remarks and concluded the discussion by confirming that she would go back to the contractor and “chase up whatever is left to be done in the area”.