Building programme brings jobs hope
A £500 million-plus roads and hospital building programme in Northern Ireland will provide a 3,000 job boost to the region's beleaguered construction industry, Stormont ministers have pledged.
Leaders of the powersharing executive heralded the range of infrastructure projects due for completion in the coming four years at a cost of £584 million as proof they were taking decisive action to battle the economic downturn.
The announcement has been welcomed by construction industry representatives.
The money - to be spent on three main road upgrades and construction work at three hospitals - has been redirected from the planned A5 cross-border dual carriageway project, which hit trouble when the Irish government withdrew substantial funding support.
Two sections of the A5 upgrade will proceed under the package announced in Belfast, at a cost of £330 million, but funds that had been earmarked for improving other stretches of that route have been reallocated to other capital builds.
Just over £90 million will be spent building a ward at the Altnagelvin hospital in Londonderry, providing improved accident and emergency facilities at the Ulster Hospital at Dundonald outside Belfast and fast-tracking work on the planned new hospital in Omagh.
An upgrade to the A2 road between Belfast and Carrickfergus will cost £57 million and £105 million will be spent on the A8 from Larne to Belfast.
In regard to the A5, work will proceed on turning the stretches between Londonderry and Strabane and Omagh and Ballygawley into dual carriageway.
Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson said the Executive was working together to tackle the downturn.
"As a result of the decisions reached this morning, these projects will create or sustain over 2,500 jobs on the roads and approximately 500 jobs on hospital spend for Northern Ireland's hard-pressed construction industry; further improve our roads infrastructure; and significantly upgrade our healthcare infrastructure in Belfast, Omagh and Londonderry," said the Democratic Unionist leader.