Belfast Telegraph

Scourge of the potholes: Motorists left in lurch as budget cuts take their toll on roads

By Rebecca Black

They're the scourge of our roads - and they're back after the recent cold snap.

Motorists across Northern Ireland have been left having to dodge potholes or face expensive repair bills.

And while the wintry weather has taken its toll on surfaces, the problem has also been exacerbated by Department of Regional Development budget cutbacks which have seen 10% of road holes left unfixed.

One of the biggest potholes is on the Hillhead Road in the Co Londonderry village of Knockloughrim. The pothole here has been filled in with sandbags and covered with a metal sheet since last November. Despite complaints, Transport NI said the pipe causing the problem is a private structure and is not their responsibility.

Meanwhile, in Portadown a pothole on Montague Street has become a source of frustration for motorists.

DUP councillor Darryn Causby urged Transport NI to act immediately to fix this pothole and others.

"I have this week alone a number of constituents who have damaged their vehicles due to hitting a pothole and they have incurred some significant costs for repairing the damage," he said.

"Whilst these have been relatively minor incidents, there remains the potential for a serious accident due to road defects.

"Transport NI must act immediately to remedy these defects before someone is seriously injured or even killed."

A number of potholes in Belfast have also been sparking anger. One, on the Upper Newtownards Road, has been prompting online fury. In response to a Belfast Telegraph query on Twitter, east Belfast man Tommy Millen urged: "Please go and check out the Upper Newtownards Road ... the road is a complete joke". A taxi driver agreed, saying the road was a "total mess".

A DRD spokeswoman said that due to budget cuts, work given to external contractors for the repair of defects such as potholes was stopped on August 8, 2014.

"This represented a loss of around a quarter of the resource require to provide a normal defect repair service," she explained.

"As a result, the Department's internal staff resources were utilised to fill the gap and, since August, have been able to fix around 90% of surface defects within the target time period. The additional money allocated to the Department in January monitoring will allow external contractors to be re-employed to deal with backlogs."

She added that the public can also contact local Transport NI offices to report potholes, especially at this time of year when they are more prevalent because of wintry weather.

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Tough budget cuts last year meant that Transport NI was forced to stop using external contractors to help its staff to fix problems such as potholes on the roads network.

This represented a reduction of around a quarter in the resources to address repairs.

However, with additional money allocated to the Department of Regional Development this week, external contractors will again be able to be deployed on our roads.

Belfast Telegraph


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