Belfast Telegraph

Cash not a magic bullet but will help reduce congestion in Northern Ireland

By Michael Sheils McNamee

A massive injection of funding into Northern Ireland's infrastructure will not provide a "magic bullet" for one of the province's worst bottlenecks, it has been warned.

Wesley Johnston, an expert on Northern Ireland's roads, has said that commuters can still expect delays at the York Street interchange even after work has been completed.

"I imagine that there still will be [queues], especially on the Westlink and the Sydenham By-pass," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"But it will mean that the junction itself will be less of a bottleneck."

Plans to develop the York Street interchange have been in the works since 2009, and were announced publicly in 2015.

The work is now set to go ahead, thanks to an additional £400m for infrastructure secured as part of the DUP's agreement to support Theresa May's minority Conservative Government, with as much as £165m going specifically on the interchange.

Around 100,000 vehicles pass through the junction each day.

While drivers can still expect some delays, Mr Johnston said that the work will "greatly improve the throughput" that brings together the Westlink, the M2, and the M3 - the three busiest roads in Northern Ireland.

Following last year's Brexit vote the project was put on hold, with a question raised about how the EU's share in the project's funding - around 40% - would be covered.

While the project is 'shovel ready', an outstanding legal issue connected to how the contract to carry out the work was awarded is preventing work from going ahead.

Up to around 40% of the £400 million infrastructure investment will go on the York Street interchange, with an additional £235m going on other projects across the province.

Mr Johnston said if the money is spent on roads, a dual carriageway on the A6 between Dungiven and Derry was most likely to be the next priority.

Yesterday's announcement was welcomed by the business community.

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said: It's "crucial we navigate the remaining hurdles on the project so the financing announced today can be used to its fullest effect."

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