Potholed Northern Ireland roads lead to £500k in payouts for damaged cars
Residents slam shoddy ‘patchwork quilt’ repairs to streets neglected for decades
Drivers from the worst affected areas for potholes in Northern Ireland have spoken of their frustration at decades of horrendous neglect.
Close to half a million pounds in compensation was paid out over the last two years to drivers here who had their cars damaged by road defects.
Dunmurry in west Belfast was the worst area, with 108 road defects reported in 2017 beside housing estates on the Summerhill and Cherry roads, as well as the adjacent four-lane carriageway on Creighton Road to Upper Dunmurry lane.
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Figures released to the BBC after a Freedom of Information request show 1,935 claims for vehicle damage in Northern Ireland were made between January 1, 2016 and November 30, 2017 - costing the taxpayer £495,358.04.
A total of 80,000 road defects were also recorded in 2017 at more than 16,000 different locations.
Last month the Belfast Telegraph reported that close to £440,000 was paid out in pothole compensation between April 2015 and August 2017.
In that time the Department for Infrastructure repaired 193,721 surface incidents at a cost of over £24m.
Driving for 30 seconds on the Creighton Road yesterday afternoon, the Belfast Telegraph counted at least 10 potholes.
Turning on to the Summerhill and Cherry roads revealed a long "patchwork quilt" of short term tarmac repairs while many holes and debris remained on the road.
Great grandmother Anne McCullough has lived in the area for 42 years. She said she couldn't remember a time when the roads weren't badly neglected.
"It doesn't surprise me at all this is the worst affected road in the country," she said.
"When one of my daughters was getting married there was a massive flood outside my front door.
"We had to get a neighbour to lift her in her wedding dress through the puddles - that's still being fixed and it was 26 years ago!" She continued: "The road is just like a patchwork quilt; everything's patched up here but never fixed. I don't drive myself but my daughters all do and they're fed up."
Carer Mark McKeown (27) had to repair his car's suspension after hitting a crumbling part of the road.
"I've been living here my whole life and the roads are terrible," he said.
"It seems to be when the cold weather kicks in it lifts the tarmac up and leaves it worse than before. It's affected my own car and the suspension. It's a massive issue."
Mechanic Darragh Digney (26) called the situation "horrendous".
"With the bad winter weather you see potholes everywhere. To keep a car maintained you've got to pay a lot of money for new springs and tyres. It's absolutely horrendous.
"As a mechanic I see a lot of cars coming in and out of our garage needing springs replaced, costing them a lot of money.
"It does keep us in business but people complain about paying their taxes and what do they get for it? The roads are left to deteriorate.
"I've actually seen people out to try and fix potholes themselves with gravel." Another resident of 40 years, Margaret Murray, said it was dangerous for road users.
"My husband's always giving off about it to me," she said.
"The Summerhill Road isn't very well maintained, there's always a massive pool of water on it every time it rains and it's a menace."
SDLP councillor Brian Heading called the damage scandalous.
"How much money could have been saved, and how much disruption for local people could have been avoided, if the money paid out in compensation was used to fill these problem potholes? Some streets are like a minefield," he said.
DUP MP Ian Paisley lambasted the Department for Infrastructure over the weekend on Twitter.
"The roads are a disgrace. And for the department to leave them to get worse is a further disgrace. Suggestions that you need a minister at Stormont to fix this is nonsense - the department should get on with its job!" A department spokesperson said they had been operating in a "challenging budgetary position for some time" which impacted on all road repairs.
They added that "any decisions on budget allocation will be for a future Minister for Infrastructure."
The spokesperson added that public safety remained a priority and the Department had delivered a significant maintenance programme in spite of funding problems.