Lisburn and Castlereagh Councillor Alexander Redpath has described the state of Northern Ireland’s roads as a “national crisis” after it was revealed that the Department for Infrastructure has paid out nearly half a million pounds to motorists whose cars have been damaged by driving into potholes.
The UUP representative, who said he’d counted 11 potholes on the Lower Ballinderry Road alone, commented: “I have spent considerable time over the past few weeks working on behalf of constituents to repair dangerous potholes. A number of my constituents suffered damage to their vehicles as a result of the poor state of our roads. I want to commend the road service staff who I have worked alongside for their help and assistance but it is obvious that they cannot carry out their job effectively on the basis of current budgets.
“Clearly there is a massive public safety issue as cars being damaged by potholes presents a risk of more serious accidents. It also doesn’t make much sense from my perspective to spend money fixing cars when we should be spending what we have fixing roads.
“The problem is only going to get worse. We’ve seen projected maintenance budgets as low as £20 million a year which would result is really drastic measures. We’re potentially looking at a blanket moratorium on replacing street lights and repairing rural roads. This would be a national crisis and would present an acute risk to public safety.
“It’s vital this issue is resolved. It is yet another example of why we need a functioning Assembly and Executive.”
Responding to concerns about the current state of many local roads, a Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: “The department has been operating in a challenging budgetary position for some time and this has been having an impact on all road maintenance activities and the condition of the road network.
“In addition, the recent winter weather has had an impact on the road network, with water ingress and freeze-thaw action after heavy rainfall and cold snaps leading to the formation of more potholes.
“Public safety remains a key priority for the department and despite the budgetary situation, the department has in this financial year delivered a significant programme of resurfacing and surface dressing and continues to carry out a programme of routine maintenance, including pothole repairs to meet all essential public safety requirements.
“The highest priority potholes are currently being repaired and this includes, in many instances, defects up to 100mm in depth. However, on low traffic rural roads only potholes over 100mm are currently being repaired.”
The spokesperson continued: “There is a balance to be struck between building new roads and public transport provision and maintaining what we already have. The Department of Finance recently published a briefing paper which outlines the impact of a number of future budget scenarios and we would welcome comments. Any decisions on budget allocation will be for a future Minister for Infrastructure.
“As always, and in particular during this period of bad weather we would encourage road users to be mindful of road conditions and adjust the way they drive, ride or cycle to ensure it is appropriate for the conditions.”
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