Streetlights: Eight staff fixing 12,000 broken lights

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A bird standing on a street lightImage source, Getty Images

More than 12,000 streetlights in Northern Ireland do not work, a Stormont department has said.

Attempts to repair them are limited by the fact that just five full-time and three part-time electricians are employed by the Department for Infrastructure to work on the backlog.

Of the 290,000 streetlights in Northern Ireland just under 5% are broken.

Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon said she has asked officials to "to work now to get the lights back on".

On Monday she said a £3m package would be used to fix faulty lights, repair potholes in roads and fund the gritting of roads.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Nichola Mallon says her department faces "severe budgetary challenges" in relation to street light repairs

"The people of Northern Ireland deserve delivery," said Ms Mallon.

"These are the daily issues that matter in homes across Northern Ireland as people go about their lives."

A total of 12,465 streetlights are broken, according to the infrastructure department.

'Faulty lights make people feel vulnerable'

Florrie Harte lives in Lincoln Court in Londonderry - her home backs on to a lane that runs through the estate.

Two streetlights along the lane have not worked for weeks and Ms Harte says she is reluctant to go out in the darkness.

"If I was going down those steps and it was icy and I didn't see it I would be a goner," she says.

"I just want the lights back on - I just want the politicians to sort this out."

Image caption,
Two broken lights at Lincoln Court in Derry are among the thousands needing repair

The Department for Infrastructure was told about the broken lights several weeks ago, she says, but they have yet to be fixed.

Democratic Unionist Party councillor David Ramsey says broken streetlights are a big issue for people in Derry.

"There are obvious health and safety issues, especially in the winter months, and it makes people feel much more vulnerable," he says.

"This is not something you would think would be an issue in 2020."

The minister responded to a Northern Ireland Assembly question this month to say her department was unable to provide a full repair service due to "severe budgetary challenges".

More than twice the amount of funding originally allocated for streetlight repair was needed to clear the backlog of faulty lights, the department said.

"The budget allocation for street lighting this current financial year was approximately £1m," a Department for Infrastructure spokeswoman told BBC News NI.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
LED streetlights have been used to replace the traditional yellow sodium lights

"It is estimated that an additional £1.2m would be needed to clear the backlog and repair any other outages between now and the end of the year."

The repair work is restricted to the department's "internal contractor resource", which it said consists of five full-time and three part-time electricians servicing all of Northern Ireland.

Just over a quarter of the streetlights in Northern Ireland have been upgraded to new LED lights.

The department started the switch with a pilot scheme in Banbridge and Armagh in 2015 and announced last year it was being rolled out across Northern Ireland.

"A total of 75,147 lights have been fitted with LED units, equating to 26% of the total network," said the department.