Belfast Telegraph

The Northern Ireland road dug up every three days- MP says residents are 'fed up' by disruption

Traffic disrupted on east Belfast street 554 times in last five years.

The Upper Newtownards Road, east Belfast
The Upper Newtownards Road, east Belfast
Antrim road road works

By Gillian Halliday

More than 500 separate roadworks have taken place on one of Belfast's busiest routes over the past five years.

The Upper Newtownards Road in the east of the city is Northern Ireland's most dug-up road, official statistics show.

A staggering 554 separate roadworks were recorded between 2014 and 2018 - one every three days on average.

The road, which runs from Dundonald into Belfast, is one of the city's main arterial routes and carries thousands of vehicles every day.

The Belfast Telegraph used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a list of the 50 roads with the most roadworks in the five years to October 2018.

The Upper Newtownards Road topped the list, with workmen carrying out repairs on the 3.6-mile carriageway twice a week on average over the past five years.

Reasons include replacing pipes and manhole covers, rebuilding the footway and clearing sewer blockages.

The top 10 roads are all in the Belfast or greater Belfast area. The Antrim Road in the north of the city ranked second, with 373 separate works in the same period.

This was followed by the Lisburn Road with 334 roadworks, and the Ballynahinch Road, Carryduff (305).

The Ormeau Road in south Belfast was fifth on the list (296).

Traders on the Upper Newtownards Road say the constant work, on top of problems caused by bus lanes, have been devastating for their businesses.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said his constituents were fed up with the knock-on effect of the work.

"At times through gritted teeth, east Belfast residents have had to tolerate excessive roadworks for the Glider, NIE power supply to the Ulster Hospital and significant water upgrades in Ballyhackamore," he said.

"The understanding and patience associated with necessary improvements and upgrades has been stretched, particularly over the last two years." Mr Robinson said that the figures put "sharp focus on the countless delays and tailbacks commuters have encountered" in the area.

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle, whose office is on the Upper Newtownards Road, said the roadworks have been "relentless" in recent years.

"I've previously raised concerns over the cumulative impact of consecutive works in east Belfast with the Minister for Infrastructure on a number of occasions at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

"And I do believe there are legitimate questions to answer as to whether the strategic planning and co-ordination of important road, flood alleviation and electricity supply works in the area was adequate," he said.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI), which has responsibility for roads, said that there are around 50,000 works carried out on roads and footways here each year.

It added that roadworks are "essential to maintain, develop and improve" road networks.

"New provision and subsequent maintenance of utility equipment, including cables, pipes, sewers and ducting, are essential elements of the overall service provision by utilities," it said.

These include manhole covers or valve cover repairs, as well as the restoration of defective burst pipes or faulty electricity or telecommunications cables, plus the installation of new gas and broadband fibre networks, including new or upgraded customer connections.

DfI added that it works closely with relevant stakeholders in order to minimise inconvenience to road users as far as possible.

It said: "Notification of proposed street works and some road works... is recorded on a computerised street works register, which enables the department and utilities to co-ordinate planned street works in order to promote safety and minimise inconvenience."

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