Roads are in a sorry state

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THE area’s roads have been showing the ill effects of the new year big freeze - with local drivers cutting up rough on the issue.

A number of the town’s roads have clearly seen better days with problems ranging from wheel busting potholes to bone crunching rough patches.

While the town has had more than its fair share of roadworks of late - with Firmus still digging - the roads could hardly be held up as examples of pristine tarmac.

Indeed along High Street the road is staring to show real signs of wear and tear - and not just along the ‘tram track’ left by trench digging.

There’s hardly a part of the town that hasn’t escaped the ravages of the weather on the roads. Drivers in Mourneview, the Shankill estate and Kilwilke have all contacted the ‘MAIL’ to highlight problems.

Rural roads have also been badly hit, one driver using the Clare Road outside Waringstown on his commute to work pointed to a series of potholes along the road which are making his morning journey far from routine. The five potholes are tightly grouped at a bend close to the Gospel Hall.

The driver joked: “At times I’ve come round there and felt like reciting ‘Nearer My God to Thee’.”

Others pointed out: “You’d think with the amount of roadworks we’ve had to put up with in recent years we’d have the best roads in the country.

“It’s bad when even High Street is starting to look a bit rough.”

One driver said he had to have a tyre replaced because of an encounter with a pothole: “It’s an expense I didn’t need. While I understand the Roads Service can’t be everywhere, I haven’t seen mush sign of pothole being marked for repair around the town.”

Another driver said: “There’s one in particular I have to swerve to avoid but if I get the juedgemet slightly off it does knock my car off course.”

Even pedestrians have had their encounters, one told the ‘MAIL’ she ended up with a soaking when a driver hit a pothole as he passed her in the wet.

Local Ulster Unionist Assembly Member Sam Gardiner has asked the Minister for Regional Development to detail the spend, per mile, on road maintenance and repairs in each of the last four years and in 2010/11 to date.

“Back in 2007 I asked the Minister how much he was spending on road repairs and found that it was only 18% of what was being spent in England So it was small wonder that in places we have a system of potholes rather than roads. The level had actually dropped back then to 70% of what it had been before the DUP-Sinn Fein coalition took over. So I decided to ask the question again and to see how spending on road repairs had been going in the last four years.

“Structural maintenance includes resurfacing, strengthening, surface dressing, structural drainage and patching. The costs in 2006/07 were £2,500 per mile, some £65,565 in total. In 2007/08 they were £3,000 per mile, some £77,370 in total. In 2008/09 they were £2,500 per mile, some £62,982 in total and in 2009/2010 they were £3,500 per mile, some £85,189 in total. The Minister told me he had no details yet for the current year and would not have them until after the end of the financial year.”

“So the pattern is that the Department of Regional Development (DRD) is spending between £2,500 per mile and £3,500 per mile on road repairs. Back in 2007 England was spending £20,967 per mile and Wales £12,258 per mile.

“I am not saying there has not been improvement. I have for example seen the spending in Upper Bann increase by £2.3 million to £6.3 million in a year. It is still a fact, however, that our spending on roads maintenance is still only a fraction of that in England and Wales. The discrepancy is so great that no matter what way you look at it is still between 16% and 28% of the spend in England and Wales. You have to ask how this enormous gap is possible unless there is something very wrong with our funding mechanism.”

A DRD spokesperson said: “The coldest December for over 120 years has had a severe impact on our road network.

“The repeated freezing and thawing cycles has caused many carriageways to split and potholes to form and Roads Service is giving priority to the repair of the affected roads.

“Roads Service has been undertaking a series of condition inspections and repair teams and contractors are working to ensure that the network is maintained to defined standards by detecting and repairing potholes as quickly as possible.”