Drivers in the Lisburn and Castlereagh area are the most likely in Northern Ireland to claim for damage caused to their vehicles due to potholes, new figures suggest.
Between January 1 and August 31 this year, a total of 1,916 vehicle damage claims due to potholes were reported to Stormont’s Department for Infrastructure (DfI). Its Lisburn and Castlereagh roads office received the most claims at 274.
One MLA said the figures should serve as a “wake-up call” for DfI to take action on transforming the dire state of Northern Ireland’s road network.
Lisburn and Castlereagh was followed by the Newry and Down West roads office, which received 218 claims, and Antrim and Newtownabbey, with 178 claims.
The area with the lowest amount of claims was Belfast South with 25, followed by Fermanagh and Omagh West (30 claims) and Belfast North (33 claims).
Alliance infrastructure spokesperson Andrew Muir said the news that nearly 2,000 claims have been brought as a result of the dire state of our roads must act as a “wake-up call” for the Department for Infrastructure to “sort out it’s act and get more Tarmac laid over the months and years ahead”.
“The latest debacle – preventing engagement of contractors to get the work done in many areas due to procurement problems – attributable to the department just adds to the dire situation, increasing the massive roads maintenance backlog that will take many years to fix if the required monies can ever be found within expected tight budget settlements over years ahead,” he said.
Back in July, it emerged that road resurfacing works in parts of Northern Ireland had to be suspended due to a legal row over tendering contracts. DfI officials warned at the time that four council areas here are facing delays in repairs that could stretch into January of next year.
Ulster Unionist infrastructure spokesperson Roy Beggs said the claims figures represent a “failure of public services and policies”.
“There have been years of under-investment on maintaining our roads. Regular resurfacing or road maintenance would be a much better use of public funds rather than having to continually pay compensation for maintenance negligence in addition to expensive repeated patching and pothole repairs,” he said.
“Our roads resurfacing budget needs to be increased. We need to refocus our road capital investment into maintaining our existing network rather than continuing to build new roads which we then cannot afford to maintain.”
DfI said it continues to inspect roads routinely on a cyclical basis. It said: “Any defects identified during these inspections, which meet current intervention criteria levels will be scheduled for repair on a prioritised basis in accordance with the Department’s current road maintenance standards.
“Earlier this year the Minister announced her high level budget commitments for the new financial year which included a capital investment of £223.1m in our road network. This included £17m funding for the Roads Recovery Fund which will be used to address areas of greatest need across the road network, of which £15m is specifically directed towards rural roads.
“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. Minister has therefore increased the Rural Roads allocation for the current year to £15m from £10n in 2020/21 representing a 50% budget increase, reflecting her commitment to continue this important work to benefit rural communities.”
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