40,000 road defects fixed following severe winter

40,000 road defects fixed following severe winter

6 June 2018

THE ravages of winter had a major impact on the road network across the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area, the district’s most senior roads official has confirmed.

Mr Simon Richardson said the past winter was one of the worst in recent years, with the southern division taking the brunt of the severe weather.

Addressing local politicians last week, the roads chief said the winter had a “significant, detrimental impact” on the local road network and that Department of Infrastructure was continuing to identify those roads most in need of repair.

Mr Richardson said a staggering 40,000 surface defects had been repaired in the past few months with £15m of a roads recovery budget being earmarked to address areas of immediate need across the road network.

The roads chief revealed that 117,000 tonnes of gritting salt were spread on the network across Northern Ireland over the winter — double the amount of previous years — with almost 25,500 tonnes spread across the southern division.

“The service is a huge operation during any winter but this year the level required was exceptional. The  impact on staff resources was a significant added pressure which affected their routine business,” he said.

Publicly thanking all staff across the southern division for their efforts, Mr Richardson said during prolonged periods of winter weather, staff worked around the clock to keep roads passable and as safe as possible.

“All available maintenance staff were deployed to winter service activities including gritting, refiling  salt boxes and replenishing grit piles. Given that we have 1,700 salt boxes and 16,000 grit piles across the division, this in itself is a huge exercise,” he said.

Mr Richardson explained that on top of the increased operational demand on staff and resources, the winter also had a significant impact on the road network. 

He told councillors: ”You will all have noticed the increased number of potholes that appeared over the winter months. This is a combination of numerous events and reduced level of road maintenance funding over recent years.

“The Department does understand the implication of the limited maintenance service and the impact on the network. Accordingly, the department is increasing its investment in both resurfacing and maintenance funding for the current financial year.”

Mr Richardson said the resource budget has enjoyed only a slight increase on last year and there remains a reliance on in-year funding for things like routine maintenance.

“The Department’s capital budget is some £500m, including confidence and supply funding. The structural maintenance capital budget for the four roads divisions is £75m, compared to an opening figure of £25m last year. As a result, we are starting the year in a much better position on the capital side,” he continued.

Mr Richardson said £15m allocated for the roads recovery fund will be used to repair the roads most badly affected by potholes, confirming those which may have a large number of potholes may receive short lengths of resurfacing, rather than repairing individual potholes. 

“This money is very welcome and will help us address some of the surface defect issues in place. The highest priority potholes across the network will be repaired,” he said.

The roads chief added: “All potholes that are two inches deep, not four as was previously the case, will be repaired and we have secured extra funding to appoint external contractors to help our own staff carry out this work.”