Potholes are a frustrating and dangerous problem for drivers in Northern Ireland. With more bad weather to come this winter, motorists run an increased risk of accidents and damage to vehicles if roads in Northern Ireland are not properly maintained.
Recent government data analysed by CompareNI.com shows the extent of the problem in councils throughout the region in 2022.*
Recent government statistics show that of the 80,395 surface defects recorded on NI roads in 2022, a staggering 64,930 were related to potholes. Although this is a slight decrease from 2021, potholes are still causing widespread damage for drivers across NI.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon district council was the worst area in Northern Ireland for potholes, with 10,925 reported in 2022 – a 23% increase from 2021.
Belfast witnessed the biggest increase in the number of potholes in 2022 at 72%, compared with 2021 – rising from 5425 to 9321 – making it the largest increase of any area in Northern Ireland.
The Newry, Mourne and Down area was also high on the list, with 10,217 potholes recorded last year, a 13% decrease from 2021 when 11,793 were recorded.
Other areas with high levels of recorded potholes include Derry/Londonderry and Strabane with 7076 down 23% from last year and Mid Ulster with 5728 down 16% from last year.
Although other councils have experienced a lower volume of potholes, the problem is still evident right across Northern Ireland.
Castlereagh and Lisburn faced the least amount of potholes with 2297, down 36% from the previous year. Fermanagh and Omagh also recorded a 31% drop in potholes with 3020 compared with 4347 in 2021.
Causeway Coast and Glens saw the greatest improvement on potholes this year, with a 37% decrease, dropping from 5558 in 2021 to 3476 in 2022.
Road repairs strongly declined during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this, the growing number of surface defects on Northern Ireland roads has largely been attributed to a lack of adequate funding. Even when potholes are repaired, cheaper insufficient methods and materials are reportedly being used to cut costs, resulting in the repairs lasting only one or two years at most and in some cases only a matter of months.**
As the government faces increased pressure on spending due to the cost-of-living crisis, potholes could move even further down the priority list in the coming months.
The Department of Infrastructure said in November 2021 that the opening 2021/22 structural maintenance capital budget is £80m for Northern Ireland – including £17m for the ‘road recovery fund’ with £15m of this allocated to rural roads – a 50% increase on 2020.
Ian Wilson, Managing Director of Northern Ireland’s largest price comparison website, CompareNI.com, comments: “Unfortunately potholes on NI roads are an ongoing problem and the lack of urgency around repairing them can be frustrating for many drivers. Not only are these potholes a nuisance, they can increase the risk of accidents and serious damage to vehicles.
“With worsening weather in the coming months and the likelihood that government spending on road maintenance will decrease due to the strain of the cost-of-living crisis, we could see a significant increase in pothole affected areas.
“This will make our roads more dangerous for all road users, with National Pothole Day on 15th January, we would encourage the government and local councils to recognise and address the pothole problem here in Northern Ireland.
“Pothole related damage is becoming more serious and more costly, meaning drivers are losing their no claims bonus to claim for repairs – which can increase insurance premiums for years to come.”
Drivers who experience damage from potholes can also contact the Department for Infrastructure and appeal for compensation if they have evidence the damage caused is related to a pothole.