Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland drivers got £850k compensation for pothole damage

Impact: Carla Lockhart
Impact: Carla Lockhart
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The amount of compensation paid out to motorists in Northern Ireland who have had their vehicle damaged by potholes has soared to almost £1 million in the last year.

Latest figures show that £850,220 was paid out in compensation for vehicle damage in the last year.

Five years ago the figure was just £163,580 and that, according to DUP MLA Carla Lockhart, whose Freedom of Information request provided the figures, shows a distinct lack of forward planning by the Department for Infrastructure.

"I put this down to a lack of investment in maintenance," the Upper Bann MLA said.

"The department and Transport NI seem to have a four inch rule. If the pothole is not deeper than that, they won't fix it.

"That's having a detrimental impact as we can see with the sums of money now being paid out in compensation every year.

"And even when they go to fix it, there is no long-term thought. We get a patched-up repair.

"As ever in these matters, it's the rural roads that suffer most.

"The department needs to start thinking long-term about this and see the impact the lack of forward planning and investment is having on the financial side of things.

"From dealing with the workers on the ground locally, they are extremely good and help as much as they can, but the allocation of funds from the department is not coming through as necessary to keep the road network in the expected condition.

"It's more and more difficult to work on a one-year budget. That doesn't show any forward planning.

"There urgently needs to be a long-term strategy on budget allocation reaching the roads in rural areas across the country, otherwise the number of claims and the amount of money being paid out is simply going to rise and rise."

The number of claims for damage has also risen considerably, from 599 in 2014/15 to over 3,000 in 2017/18.

That number fell slightly last year to 2,441, but the overall cost of the claims saw a sharp increase, though the department said a large number of claims can carry over from one financial year to the next before being settled.

Earlier this year a report revealed it would cost £1.2bn to bring our roads up to an acceptable standard. The Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) warned that spending on the road network here has been running around £50m per year less than what is required.

The Department for Infrastructure had not responded to a request for comment by time of going to press.

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