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130 people every day register a complaint over state of Northern Ireland roads

The shocking state of Northern Ireland's roads can be revealed today - with more than 130 complaints made every day about the network on average.

One route in Co Down was reported to authorities 118 times in just one year.

In total, nearly 50,000 complaints were made about our roads in 2018/19, according to official figures.

Last year, the Northern Ireland Audit Office estimated the roads maintenance backlog at £1.2bn.

Sub-standard temporary repairs have been carried out because not enough money is available, the watchdog warned.

Now statistics obtained by this newspaper underline the extent of their poor condition.

A total of 49,542 complaints were made by motorists in the 12 months to last April about our roads, according to the Department for Infrastructure (DfI).

That is an increase of more than 110% compared to 2014/15, when 23,482 complaints were made.

The rise in complaints comes at the same time as a jump in compensation for motorists whose vehicles were damaged by potholes. Over two years, payouts have more than doubled, increasing from £321,849 in 2016 to £751,926 in 2018.

This newspaper used Freedom of Information legislation to obtain details of the roads which had the highest number of complaints.

Topping the list in 2018/19 was the Shore Road, Ballykinler, Co Down, which had 118 complaints. Each related to potholes, described in the response as surface defects, according to DfI figures.

The second highest is Bangor Road, Bangor, also in Co Down, with 62 reports, while the third was Saintfield Road, on the outskirts of Belfast which had 55 complaints during 2018/19.

In terms of the road network overall, the vast majority of complaints related to potholes.

Other complaints included problems with signage, drainage and roadworks. The figures also reveal that the most repaired road in Northern Ireland was a stretch of the Antrim Road in north Belfast. The route, from the Limestone Road to Salisbury Avenue and comprising just over half a mile, was fixed 196 times during 2018-19 - more than four a week on average.

A section of the Shore Road in Rostrevor, Co Down, had 182 repairs, followed by Glassdrumman Road, Annalong, Co Down, with 162 repairs during 2018/19.

Niall Addis, who lives close to Ballykinler's Shore Road, said it was in an "awful state".

"The amount of potholes is unbelievable. There's grass growing up on both sides (of the road) and even into the centre. Elderly people, young mothers with prams, can't walk down it," he said.

"Potholes are temporarily filled and then it rains, and it gets washed away and the problem gets worse. Half-way down it, a barrier was erected to stop joyriders speeding."

He revealed that a relative had ended up ruining their vehicle's tyres after hitting a pothole on a stretch of road in the vicinity of the Shore Road.

"They had to get two tyres replaced," he added. "It happened after an awful lot of rain - the pothole fills up and it makes it difficult to see them."

The 66-year-old, who is secretary of Ballykinler and Tyrella Cross Community Association, said potholes were an issue in other parts of the village.

"It can get very, very busy. We have people coming from Clough and Newcastle to our coast and there's an awful lot of traffic," he added. "In another part of Ballykinkler, we had part of the road resurfaced - and a very good job was done with it - but it was not more than a quarter of a mile."

Local SDLP councillor Dermot Curran said Ballykinler residents have raised concerns over the state of the Shore Road and the wider area with him directly.

"I've had around 20 people contact me about it over the last six to seven months.

"I travelled on the road two weeks ago and it's a disgrace," he said. "Everybody tells me that they pay their rates and road tax, and nothing is getting done about it."

A DfI spokesman said the department is doing its utmost to tackle the issue amid financial constraints.

"We know more than anyone that maintenance and investment in our roads network is a significant issue and we are doing the best we can across the road network with the limited resources we have," he said.

"We have maintained funding for structural maintenance at 2018-19 levels and we are continuing to prioritise work by identifying those roads most in need of repair and fixing the highest priority defects across the entire road network."

The spokesman added: "In common with other parts of the public service, we continue to face budget challenges. This means that we have to strike a balance between maintaining existing infrastructure in water and sewerage, the road network and public transport, and investing in new infrastructure."

  • What is the state of your road? Send us your images of the worst potholes to digital.editorial@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
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