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8,000 NI road repairs waiting to be done as officials blame coronavirus for lack of action

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Almost 8,000 road repairs in Northern Ireland have yet to be carried out, with those in Fermanagh and Omagh in the worst shape over the lockdown period, according to new figures. (Yui Mok/PA)

Almost 8,000 road repairs in Northern Ireland have yet to be carried out, with those in Fermanagh and Omagh in the worst shape over the lockdown period, according to new figures. (Yui Mok/PA)

mallon

mallon

PA

Almost 8,000 road repairs in Northern Ireland have yet to be carried out, with those in Fermanagh and Omagh in the worst shape over the lockdown period, according to new figures.

Some 1,339 were reported in Fermanagh and Omagh, followed by 1,302 in Mid-Ulster, from the beginning of April, and were not recorded as being repaired by the middle of June, the Department for Infrastructure revealed in a written Assembly answer.

The department said the Covid-19 crisis has had an impact on both response times and the recording of information, but added that "contractors have now for the most part returned to work and are working towards our target response time".

Response times range from one day for serious defects to the next work programme for the least serious, the department said.

In total, 7,801 defects on roads across Northern Ireland were recorded since April 1 and were not noted as being repaired by June 18, the department stated in response to a question from East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs Jr.

The lowest number of surface defects was just 191 in Ards and North Down - seven times lower than the worst council area of Fermanagh and Omagh.

"I'm not surprised that Fermanagh and Omagh Council area comes out with the highest number of such unrepaired defects and Mid-Ulster Council area in second place," Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton said.

"You just need to drive round the local roads in Fermanagh and South Tyrone to realise the desperate poor level of maintenance of our roads.

"I, and I'm sure other elected representatives, receive constituent complaints on a daily basis about poor condition of roads, multiple potholes and cracks, along with bad surfaces.

"It appears that the west of Northern Ireland gets a bad deal when delivering public services, which is particularly evident from these facts that we have a poor record for the repair of road defects.

"I note that much of the repair work that is now carried out by DfI Roads seems to be short-term repairs as opposed to carrying out more substantial work that would have a longer term life-span."

A DfI spokesperson said the "response times for the repair of road defects, depending on factors such as their severity and the volume of traffic on the road".

He said: "They range from one calendar day for the most serious defects, to periods of five working days and four weeks for less serious defects."

The spokesperson added: "The least serious defects only have to be repaired in the next work programme for that route."

While the Covid-19 outbreak has affected work, the "response times for the repair of road defects are now generally being met and if for any reason it becomes apparent that the relevant response time cannot be met, then the department has the option of installing signs to warn road users of a possible danger," according to officials.

"The number of defects in a given area will be influenced by the lengths of roads in the area as well as the road type and usage.

"The timing of the recording of repairs for both road defects and street lighting on the department's maintenance management system will also influence whether or not a defect is classed as being outstanding."

In a budget statement to the Assembly, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon last month said funding allocated to the department "does not allow for any significant injection of additional funds to invest in enhancing basic services such as routine road maintenance, which means the road network will continue to deteriorate".

She added at the time: "This is disappointing as I am keen to get the basics right in delivering services that are essential for local communities and in gaining and maintaining public confidence in what we do.

"This is an aspiration which, I know, many people share.

"I will continue to make the case for additional money to deliver an appropriate roads maintenance service to meet the changing demands of a modern and economically vibrant society."

In 2019, the Northern Ireland Audit Office estimated it would cost approximately £1.2bn to upgrade the region's roads.

It also reported that lack of funding led to a reduction in the number of defects being recorded and approved for repair.

According to a report by the BBC earlier this year, a total of 102,521 road defects were recorded in 2019, a decrease of 24,000 on the previous year.

The department also revealed the number of street light outages since the start of April that had not been recorded as being repaired by June 18.

These range from 297 in the Causeway Coast and Glens to 37 in Mid-Ulster.

The response time for street lighting repairs is five working days, the department said.

COUNCIL AREASurface defectsStreet Lighting Outages■ ANTRIM AND NEWTOWNABBEY34473■ ARDS AND NORTH DOWN191230■ ARMAGH, BANBRIDGE & CRAIGAVON83345■ BELFAST60574■ CAUSEWAY COAST AND GLENS960297■ DERRY CITY AND STRABANE754129■ FERMANAGH AND OMAGH1,33967■ LISBURN AND CASTLEREAGH49369■ MID AND EAST ANTRIM401109■ MID ULSTER1,30237■ NEWRY, MOURNE AND DOWN579179

Outstanding repairs by council area - April 1 - June 18, 2020

1,309

STREET LIGHTING OUTAGES ACROSS NORTHERN IRELAND

7,801

SURFACE DEFECTS ACROSS NORTHERN IRELAND

Belfast Telegraph