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Editor's Viewpoint

Road repair failures shame department



Roadworks in east Belfast

Roadworks in east Belfast

Roadworks in east Belfast

There should be a motto in public life: If you’re going to do a job, do it right. It’s what the taxpayer expects. Instead, when it comes to our roads, a large portion of the money we pay in taxation isn’t actually going towards making our roads better; it’s going towards fixing the damage caused by the roads not being fixed properly in the first place.

The false economy of patching up roads for short-term gain, rather than fixing them to an acceptable standard to cope with long-term wear and tear, is costing millions of pounds.

We all appreciate that work has to be done. We all want better, faster broadband and we know that, on occasion, workers need access to underground infrastructure for repairs and maintenance.

But for utility companies carrying out this work, better should be expected.

In the past two years, they have had to return to sites 1,800 times to rectify problems.

In the 2020/21 financial year, almost 3,000 claims were filed against the Department for Infrastructure.

That equates to eight incidents a day, or almost 250 every month.

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More than 100,000 defects were found on Northern Ireland roads in just 12 months. And as the numbers mount, so too do the associated costs. In 2020/21, more than £15.5m was spent on patching up road surfaces, but there is no way to evaluate the effectiveness of the repair processes.

After all, just how many times is the same section of road being patched up?

Without this information, which the department says it does not keep a record of, the lack of transparency on where money is being spent leaves one wondering if details are being hidden.

The taxpayer deserves to know whether companies are paid a second time when they return to fix work that should have been completed to a higher standard in the first place.

The public also deserves to know if the same pothole is being patched up time after time.

Until then, there will always be questions.

The taxpayer should be able to trust that utility companies and the Department for Infrastructure are looking after the roads we drive on. It’s a service we all pay for.

Exactly what standard of inspection has been agreed?

If sites have been revisited 1,800 times in the past two years, surely a better system should be put in place?

In the meantime, we’re left to drive on substandard roads full of potholes.

Accidents are just waiting to happen.

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