Falklands : FIRS Goes One to One With The Hon Sharon Halford MLA (09/02/11)
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 09.09.2011 (Article Archived on 23.09.2011)
Members of the legislative Assembly met this week to discuss the road network and possible future improvements. A Report for FIRS by Stacey Bragger
FIRS DISCUSSES ROADS, FIGAS AND WORKBOAT SERVICES WITH SHARON HALFORD
A Report for FIRS by Stacey Bragger (SB) 02/09/11
Members of the legislative Assembly met this week to discuss the road network and possible future improvements. On Fridayís programme Councillor Sharon Halford (SH) reported on the outcome of those discussions.
SH: We started with transport and looked at FIGAS, Workboat Services and then went on to roads, which seem to be always on the agenda for everybody. As you know we have an awful lot of roads experts out there, probably me on occasion. But I think everything really went into the melting pot because it was one of those discussions where you do have to look at the overall picture.
And we started off with Manfred Keenleyside giving us a very in-depth look at where we are now, what the consequences would be if we continue with the level of funding thatís been going on for the last couple of years, what could be done if we increased that funding up to a certain level and what could be done if we had the all singing, all dancing option, which would be mega-bucks. All this was looked at and I think everyone is now fully aware that we simply canít carry on as we are going.
The road network was put in place and it was known at the time they were put in place that those roads were low-cost but would be high-maintenance. Thatís now come around to bite us in the rear end, I do believe, because thatís whatís actually happening.
But there a number of roads out there that have never, ever been capped and thatís quite an issue as well. We looked at all sorts of things Ė I mean, for example, to do capping properly would require a crusher at some point on West Falkland and to get decent material for the capping because thereís really no point in putting rubbish on top of the roads. If we are going to put anything on it needs to be of good quality. That doesnít mean it will last forever and a day but it will last longer than rubbish.
So all thatís been looked at but before people get excited that somethingís going to happen tomorrow, it isnít. Thereís a programme in place for this year and that will continue. What we hope will come out of the discussion on Monday is that things can be geared up for next season because itís not just a case of Ďweíre going to cap and thatís it.í We are going to have to get extra plant in and in addition to that we probably will have to source a bit more labour than what we currently have. But at least if we know we can carry on with the programme as is this year and gear things up for next year to me that does, hopefully, give a better outlook.
SB: So what would you hope to see the year after next?
SH: I would hope to see quite a push on capping. I mean, they will continue to cap anyway because another area we looked at was the categorisation of roads. We do kind of have them in categories at the moment but they would like to officially categorise them into ďA,Ē ďB,Ē and ďC.Ē ďAĒ would be the spine roads which receive the most attention. Currently that is the case for Stanley to New Haven, a spine road and Port Howard to Fox Bay. And these roads in theory should receive the most attention because they are the most important to keep open. The category ďBĒ would be the link roads off them where they are still used by a fair number of peoples and therefore need regular maintenance as well. And the ďCĒ roads would be the single use roads which either come off the spine road or a link road going to a single destination. Once these are done up they would not deteriorate as quickly as the other categories. Itís down to the amount of usage how quickly they deteriorate.
SB: Was there any indication on how much extra money would be put into roads for the following year?
SH: No. But it will come to £Millions if you look at all the options. But really, PWD and Highways now need to sit down and come up with a programme for that. What can be achieved? Although most of us would like to put more money towards this, thereís no point in putting a whole lot of money if itís not actually going to be used. So we need to make sure what we do put forward can realistically be used up. It is scheduled now to come back with a plan for that so that if it gets into the budget we have the money there and hopefully can take things forward.
SB: I think there is one suggestion that was put forward in the public meeting last week that you could probably go one step further on some West Falkland roads and rip them up and start again. Is that an option?
SH: No itís not an option. Itís going to be a necessity. That was one of the things that was talked about by the Highways Department, is that in some areas you can cap but because of the way some of the roads had been built there are certain areas that will actually need reconstruction as well. So, all jokes aside, that is likely to happen as they go along.
SB: Can you describe the dialogue on Monday? Do you think it was useful to sit around the table and discuss this matter?
SH: I think it was essential because while some of us appreciated where we were I am not sure that everybody fully understood the picture. And I was actually quite pleased when I was talking to Simon Catton yesterday, who said that he thought it had been extremely useful and he was very pleased with the positivity that came out of it. So hopefully all around we achieved something.
SB: How did FIGAS and Workboat Services all fit in?
SH: We looked at FIGAS and what they had been doing over the last year because, as you know, we had the FIGAS review previously and we did a customer survey a while back which seemed relatively positive. It was just to look at the whole transport network as a whole because, as you know, we subsidise FIGAS, we subsidise Workboat Services and we put a lot of money into the road network. I guess the intention was that as roads got around you would stop using coastal shipping and FIGAS would be reduced but then you still need something for emergency services on the outer islands. You canít just cut the poor chaps off. It just would never do. So it was really to look more at how everything could jell and how things have worked.
But with the roads, as I see it, the bottom line is we are where we are today because a decision was taken some years ago to get rid of the Coastal Shipping Service. And that was got rid of and the Ferry introduced, which I am sure people possibly wouldnít like to be without now. Thereís been a load of comment over the years but I think people have settled down and I think they actually quite like the ferry in many respects. But as I see it that was put in before the infrastructure and the roads were at a situation where they were able to deal with it. And thatís what we are paying for now.
What was interesting when we looked at Workboat Services, in fact, was to learn that they had over the last year carried 3163 passengers. And when you think of that, itís possibly passengers that FIGAS lost. They also carried lots of other things Ė trucks and freight and everything else but it was the actual passenger factor that struck my attention. But also on Workboat Services, when we were discussing the whole area of what they do I did ask questions about islandí jetties and ramps Ė where we are with them and what work is planned on some of them out there to bring them up to the specifications they need to be. And again that is something that I hope to get information on later on.
SB: The MPA Road, was that discussed as well?
SH: Thatís always discussed. Itís always high on everybodyís agenda. And it was discussed as to whether or not it should be black-topped, how soon, because that will be a very, very expensive option. Should a few kilometres be done each year? Again, that will come into the proposals coming forward from PWD in due course.
SB: I think the maintenance of the MPA Road is an issue as well with PWD. Are pieces of tarmac being ripped up in the future? Is that something thatís being discussed?
SH: As you know they did try blacktopping the MPA Road in places a few years back and some of it didnít last for one reason or another and they have lifted that and there may be areas where they may have to lift more but they only do that when it gets to a dangerous condition and they have to lift it.
SH: You said there were a few other issues discussed as well at the away day. I think international public relations were talked about?
SH: Yes. We touched on that and got everybody up to speed with things we are hoping to do. We also looked at the rural development strategy and Mike Summers is the lead on that as the MLA and I think they will be looking at that and taking it forward. As I see the RDS, itís always going to be one of those things thatís a living work because hopefully itís something that will always be evolving and moving on.
SB: Do you think peopleís expectations with the roads issue as well?
SH: I think thatís very true. In fact I think peopleís expectations all around are always on the up, arenít they? And roads are certainly no exception to do this. I mean, it was not that many years ago when it took a long time to get from ďAĒ to ďB.Ē Now-days I think many roads are criticised and possibly quite rightly so, at the moment with the state of some of them, but even when they are not in that state they still get quite severely criticised because people take 10 minutes to get from ďAĒ to ďBĒ rather than 5. And it was something that was touched upon again at the meeting. Perhaps in some cases if people drove that little bit more slowly rather than trying to go as quickly as they can, the roads might hold out better and it might be safer to do that also. But as I say, itís peopleís expectations.
(100X Transcription Service)