Pothole City: Almost 2,000 road defect reports in 10 weeks in Derry & Strabane

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New figures lay bare the state of our roads, with 572 public complaints/reports over potholes lodged in the 10 weeks to January 10 and more than 1,400 defects and potholes recorded during inspections.

The Journal has obtained updated figures from the Department of Infrastructure amid widespread concern over the state of the roads infrastructure in the NW, with one local MLA warning ‘pothole clusters’ resembled ‘the surface of the moon’.

The figures - which detail the number of public reports and also the number of defects recorded by staff from November 1 to January 10 - are stark, with the Department confirming that, "in compliance with Departmental policy, only the highest priority defects are currently being repaired and, unfortunately, some defects will not be repaired until they meet the required intervention level.” ​

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The spokesperson told the Journal that financial constraints were having a major impact.​

Potholes and defects on the Northland Road, Balliniska Road, Springtown and at Ballyarnett in Derry this week.Potholes and defects on the Northland Road, Balliniska Road, Springtown and at Ballyarnett in Derry this week.
Potholes and defects on the Northland Road, Balliniska Road, Springtown and at Ballyarnett in Derry this week.

The Department has been operating in a challenging budgetary position for some time and this has had an impact on road maintenance activities and the overall condition of the road network,” it said.​

Of the 579 pothole enquiries and complaints from the public since November 1, 127 were labelled as being new, 59 were ‘in progress’ and 390 had been ‘completed’ - meaning that, either, they had been repaired or that they have not been deemed sufficiently serious to act on. ​

In terms of the 1,408 potholes and other road defects recorded by staff during routine and ad hoc inspections since November 1, 841 were deemed ‘completed’, Works Orders were issued for 563 defects and four works orders are being prepared. ​

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The wettest October in over 153 years and a deficit in funds have impacted the state of the roads here, the Department for Infrastructure said.

Patchwork roads in Derry's Northland Road area.Patchwork roads in Derry's Northland Road area.
Patchwork roads in Derry's Northland Road area.

SDLP Infrastructure spokesperson Mark H Durkan said yesterday that the failure to adequately address the growing number of potholes across the road network “is putting road users at risk of injury or worse”.

Responding to data released earlier this week by CompareNI.com which detailed a 9% increase in potholes across the north, the Foyle MLA said he has been “inundated with complaints and concerns” about various areas including Northland Road, Victoria Road and Buncrana Road.

"We’re talking about the main arterial routes into the city,” he said.

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Mr Durkan advised that people can claim for damage done as he spoke of the “road safety risk and real risk of damage and danger to motorists forced to swerve to avoid oncoming potholes”.

A large rain water-filled pothole on Northland Road.A large rain water-filled pothole on Northland Road.
A large rain water-filled pothole on Northland Road.

"I’ve been critical of DfI’s approach in the past, the policy which they’ve adopted sees them measuring and marking defects, often multiple times before they meet the criteria for repair. It seems pretty inefficient and definitely ineffective.

Mr Durkan warned that “pothole clusters on roads that resemble the surface of the moon have become all too familiar, with that ‘crater-effect’,” and criticised the current system by which staff can only repair those which meet the requisite depth and not the others.

DfI confirmed that pothole enquiries are initially categorised and measured,and if this meets the intervention criteria, then the category, depth dimension, traffic volume and environment are used to set a priority with respective target completion date.

A spokesperson told the Journal: "The estimated value of the shortfall in funding between what was needed to maintain the network and what was actually available to be spent between 2014 and 2023 is approximately £920m; it is readily apparent the difference in quality that should be expected when such a significant shortfall in maintenance spending occurs.

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SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

"Northern Ireland experienced the wettest October in over 153 years of records which caused severe damage to some roads and we have been progressing repairs as quickly as possible subject to available resources.

"Regular inspections of the road network are also continuing and defects which meet the intervention level will be taken forward for repair. The Department will continue to work hard to ensure that our limited funding is targeted at areas of greatest need.”“The public can report potholes via www.nidirect.gov.uk/services/report-pothole-or-other-surface-defect. ”