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A5 Corridor: £72m 'wasted' on Northern Ireland's biggest ever roads project... despite being stalled for 8 years

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 29/04/2015

The busy A5 at Sion Mills in Co Tyrone
The busy A5 at Sion Mills in Co Tyrone

The cost of Northern Ireland's biggest ever roads project has hit £70million - despite being stalled for eight years.

The A5 Western Transport Corridor was given the go-ahead by the Executive in 2007.

Yet the ambitious scheme remains stuck in first gear, with a court ruling killing it off for the foreseeable future.

Now it can be revealed the bill for the project has climbed to £72m.

This includes £15m spent since the High Court judgment in 2013 which effectively left the scheme dead in the water.

Ciaran McClean from the Alternative A5 Alliance (AA5A), which is opposed to the new road, branded it a colossal waste of money.

"This whole project has created an enormous amount of waste," he said. "It seems that rather than take on board the seriousness of the court judgment, the Executive feels it can pursue this proposal even though the money isn't there."

The Department for Regional Development (DRD) insisted the Executive remained committed to the scheme.

And yesterday Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was "absolutely convinced" the A5 scheme would be delivered.

The original proposal was to convert the 55-mile route from Aughnacloy to Londonderry to a dual carriageway.

In 2007 the Executive agreed to proceed with the plan, which was to be part-funded by the Irish government. However, the project - the single largest road scheme ever undertaken in Northern Ireland - has been dogged by setbacks.

In November 2011 the Republic withdrew its £400m funding.

Three months later it was announced that the project would be broken up and built in phases.

However, in April 2013, a High Court judge quashed a decision to proceed with the scheme.

Prior to the court ruling, some £56,484,595 had been spent on the A5. This included £36,012,873 on consultants, £14,073,609 on contractors and £3,933,357 for ground investigation.

The remainder comprised service fees and land-related costs, including compensation.

Since the court ruling, a further £15,350,120 has been spent - around £21,000 a day.

Consultants have received £6,766,812 while another £5,935,837 has gone on contractors.

Mr McClean, who is standing as a Green Party candidate in West Tyrone in next week's election, said it was time the Executive cut its losses.

"When you are in a hole you stop digging. We can't maintain the roads as it is, we're incapable of keeping the street lights on and the Stormont House Agreement is a blueprint for austerity across all departments," he said.

Mr McClean pointed to AA5A's proposal for an upgrade of the existing A5. "That is affordable, it is sensible and it is achievable," he said.

Yesterday, however, the Deputy First Minister said he was confident the A5 would be delivered.

Speaking to the BBC's Talkback programme, Mr McGuinness said: "The construction workers were on site whenever the judge in the judicial review stopped the construction of the A5.

"That was not stopped by the Executive. The Executive was absolutely in favour of it and is still in favour of it. I am absolutely convinced that the A5 will go ahead (although) we obviously have to satisfy the court judgment."

A spokesman for DRD said the total cost of the scheme was estimated at £800m to £850m.

"As with all major road schemes, around 10% of the total costs is typically spent on development fees," he said. "In addition, while the court ruling of April 2013 was a setback, the Executive remains committed to the scheme and work has been ongoing since then to bring the scheme back on course for delivery.

"Work carried out since April 2013 includes additional traffic and environmental surveys; compiling a new environmental statement and draft statutory orders; progressing work on an appropriate assessment in accordance with the Habitats Directive (including public consultation carried out during 2014); reinstating land where construction work had already started prior to April 2013; compensating affected landowners; and engaging in an extensive round of further meetings with landowners.

"The next step is the publication of the draft vesting orders and draft direction order.

"A new environmental statement for the scheme will also be published at the same time as these draft orders. Publication of the draft orders and environmental statement will be followed by a six-week public consultation period. This is likely to lead to the need for a further public inquiry on the scheme, which could take place in early 2016."

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