Belfast Telegraph

A5 road upgrade branded a gamble with public cash

By Linda Stewart

Northern Ireland’s biggest road scheme has been branded a “big punt with taxpayers’ money” by one of the UK’s leading transport commentators.

Former Independent journalist Christian Wolmar has lined up with campaigners against the £85m A5 dualling scheme which would upgrade the road from the north west to the border at Aughnacloy.

The controversial scheme, which would see 20 minutes shaved off the journey from the north west to Dublin, has aroused anger from campaigners in Co Tyrone, who warn that it will devastate businesses and cut farms apart, while bringing little benefit because of its lack of exits.

Mr Wolmar, who last night addressed a meeting organised by th Alternative A5 campaign which opposes the dualling scheme, said the economics don’t stack up.

“There is nothing in it for the people of Tyrone — that is clear,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“The current road is not massively congested so what are they spending the money for? Would it not be better spent on other methods of transport or forms of economic regeneration?”

Mr Wolmar added: “There are a lot of local businesses that will suffer, hotels, restaurants, stop-over points.

“It’s effectively a motorway with limited exits so it will be of no benefit to local people’s welfare and will detract from some of them specifically. I think it’s a huge punt with taxpayers' money at a time when you could spend the money on much better things.” The Department for Regional Development said the plans will significantly improve the road network. “The preferred route was chosen using well-established methodologies and the A5 project is designed to provide 85km of new dual carriageway between Derry and the border at Aughnacloy — that will support the future economic growth of this region,” a spokesperson said.

A public inquiry is due to be held next year.

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