SINN Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has said the Department of Infrastructure must do more to improve the condition of our roads and tackle the pothole problem.
Speaking after a Freedom of Information Act revealed over 85,000 defects, including potholes and other damages, on the north’s roads over the last 12 months, the Newry/Armagh MLA said:
“These are staggering figures. Over 85,000 damages to our roads were recorded in the last 12 months.
“This is a symbol of historic underinvestment and the damaging impact that Tory austerity has had on our road network.
“However, the Department of Infrastructure must put an urgent focus on tackling the rising number of potholes and damage to our roads.
“Fathom Line, in my area, is top of the charts for road damage. This is no surprise as Newry and Armagh is plagued with potholes.
“This must be addressed by the Department to improve our roads and make them safer.”
The Department for Infrastructure says "historic underinvestment" has made it difficult to solve the problem.
The current annual budget for roads maintenance is £96m, and the minister has bid for £120m in the 2021-2022 budget.
However, auditors have estimated more than £1bn is needed to bring the road network up to standard.
Figures released to BBC News NI under the Freedom of Information Act reveal a total of 85,983 defects were recorded in 2020.
In response, a spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said:
“Improving the condition of the road network for all road users is a high priority for Minister Mallon and Mr Boylan is right, there has been severe historic underinvestment when it comes to funding allocated to the Department.
"As a committee member Mr Boylan will know that the Minister has made clear that she wants to do more to improve the condition of the road network for all road users, however she is constrained by the level of funding available and continues to stress to Executive colleagues the need for investment in roads infrastructure to help address regional imbalance, promote sustainable travel, help communities and improve safety.
"The Minister made a bid for £11 million for roads in June and did not receive an allocation. She made a further bid for £6.5m in October and was allocated £2m.
"In the 20/21 financial year funding for roads structural maintenance across Northern Ireland was £96m, with £12m set aside for a roads recovery fund to address areas of immediate need across the road network of which £10m was specifically for rural roads. This funding covered a range of activities including resurfacing and patching repairs on the road network.
"There is a rolling programme of maintenance and repair across the roads network. All roads across Northern Ireland are inspected on a regular basis with all defects which meet the Department’s current intervention criteria being recorded and prioritised for repair. The Minister has bid for £120m for capital structural maintenance as part of the 2021-22 budget process”