Roads site wrangle rolls on

MIXED MESSAGES: Graham Barker, the founder of roads.im, a website which provides a platform for Manx road users to highlight longstanding problems on the island's highways, pictured with signs facing the wrong way on North Quay in Douglas. PHOTO: Mike Proudfoot MP120314 (23).

MIXED MESSAGES: Graham Barker, the founder of roads.im, a website which provides a platform for Manx road users to highlight longstanding problems on the island's highways, pictured with signs facing the wrong way on North Quay in Douglas. PHOTO: Mike Proudfoot MP120314 (23).

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THE man behind a website set up to publicise problems with the island’s roads says the site fulfils a valuable role and does not simply deflect attention from the official highways department site.

Graham Barker, who created roads.im in February, claims the site had received more than 14,000 page views from more than 3,000 visits.

Mr Barker points out his website preceded that of the highways department and, furthermore, its remit was wider.

‘The purpose of roads.im seems to have been misunderstood,’ he said.

‘It is not only for the reporting of the abysmal state of the Isle of Man’s roads, but also for bringing road signage and road marking issues to light.

‘Commenting on the problems raised, and voting for how annoying they are, have quickly become central to the community that has developed around the site.

‘In a personal aside, I have previously submitted issues with the state of the Isle of Man’s roads to the Department of Infrastructure through most of the available methods – email, the ‘Report an Issue’ website and family members have written in. At no point has there been a response, nor has anything been done about the issues raised.

‘For example, I reported a road sign facing the wrong way on North Quay over a year ago and yet nothing has been done to date.

‘Since having set up roads.im, I have been inundated with similar stories.’

Mr Barker said the official government site failed to give feedback on whether an issue had been addressed and it was also impossible to see if an issue had been reported already – giving a measure of the level of concern it was causing.

‘By hiding away the public’s concerns, it conceals how long issues have been left to fester, gives no feedback on when works have been completed and does not allow the public to check if a problem has already been reported,’ he said.

Mr Barker added that, in particular, if people report a problem they were anxious to receive feedback on their comments and follow any progress being made to rectify it.

‘The size of community that has grown up around the site shows that this is a wider issue that is failing to be addressed,’ he said.

He said the three issues topping the poll on the site were a Department of Infrastructure van partly parked in a disabled bay in Onchan, the poor condition of Peel Road and the promenades in Douglas, and double yellow lines alongside taxi rank markings at the Sea Terminal. There are currently 81 unsolved issues logged.

But Director of Highways Richard Pearson said it was better for members of the public to report issues directly to highways than to go through a third party.

‘It is true that the “Report a Problem” website is relatively new. However, before that we had pothole(at)gov.im. and our enquiry number 686665 which also both still exist,’ he said.

‘It is disappointing that he is reporting dissatisfaction as the DoI teams do work hard to address defects. We record our performance against defects reported and actioned each month.’

Mr Pearson said performance had been good, with 139 out of 143 top priority jobs completed within one working day over the past year, and 65 out of 74 second priority jobs done within the target of five working days.

However, he said there was inevitably a gap between what people wanted and what funds allowed them to do.

‘We would like to respond to all defects reported, but the reality is that our budgets are about £6m a year less than required to maintain the road network in a steady state and there is about a £100m backlog of work required.

‘We cannot afford to attend to all issues reported but instead apply a prioritised approach whereby we attend to defects that have a safety implication if not dealt with.’

He said a sliding scale from 24 hours to six or even 12 months was used to prioritise work depending on whether the defect was dangerous. If possible, he added, jobs would be grouped together in a particular area and dealt with all at once for improved efficiency.

He said a record number of projects had been completed over the past year, including Victoria Road in Douglas and the Castletown bypass, and teams had laid a record one kilometre of new surface in a single day at the Shoulder Road in Patrick. Commenting on the contentious issues of Peel Road and Douglas promenades, Mr Pearson said plans were being made, adding: ‘I hope to be able to report some positive progress in the next few months.’

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