£130m spent on repairing Northern Ireland's battered roads
Cash spent on maintaining Northern Ireland's roads has broken all records in the last year, it has been revealed.
And part of the reason may be the battering which the roads have taken from the weather.
The total bill for structural maintainance in the financial year just ended was around £130m, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy revealed.
It is a record level of expenditure – up by £20m on the previous year.
And it is also around £10m higher than the previous record year of 2011/12.
However, Ulster Unionist minister Mr Kennedy said it was not possible to quantify in detail how much of the costs can be attributed to extreme weather events.
Responding to Assembly questions from Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff and David McNarry of Ukip, he added: "There is no doubt the weather can have a significant impact on the condition of our road network.
"The storms and associated tidal surges earlier in the year caused significant damage to coastal roads and their associated defences."
Mr Kennedy said his department anticipated the cost of carrying out storm damage repairs will amount to around £3.5m, but it could be more.
Work at some of the locations is still on-going, and in a few cases will not be completed until later in the year.
Strangford MLA Mr McNarry asked how many roads had needed repairs because of weather damage in the last year, and West Tyrone MLA Mr McElduff asked for details of costs.
The minister argued that given the extent of Northern Ireland's roads network – some 25,000 kilometres – the "wide range" of weather events over the last 12 months and difficulty diagnosing the exact cause of damage to roads "it is not possible to quantify how many roads have required repair due to weather related damage over the last 12 months".
"However, in general, well-maintained roads in good condition suffer relatively little weather related damage.
"In seeking to maintain the network and offset weather-related damage, my department anticipates it will have spent some £130m on structural maintenance in 2013/14," he said.
"This will be a record level of expenditure, showing an increase of some £20m on the previous year, and some £10m higher than the previous record of £120m set in 2011/12."
Mr Kennedy also explained structural maintenance was a collective term for maintaining roads and footways which can include resurfacing and reconstruction, surface dressing, "patching" and structural drainage.
He said the Ministry of Defence should have been involved in recent efforts to combat the relentless sequence of storms and that he intended to raise the issue with Sinn Fein Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O'Neill.
"I have noted reactions by the military in relation to the inspections of the coastal defences in other parts of the UK. A similar approach would be helpful in Northern Ireland," the minister said.