Four-year headache for motorists until A6 dualling is completed
Motorists travelling between Londonderry and Belfast will have to endure around four years of increased traffic jams and delays as major roadworks on the A6 get under way in October.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has announced his decision to proceed with the A6 Randalstown to Castledawson dualling scheme, which represents an investment of £160m.
While this will create much-needed construction jobs, it will be 2020 before the work on the nine-mile stretch is completed.
Almost 20,000 vehicles use the road daily, and while it is already infamous for tailbacks, drivers face a potential nightmare until the work is finished.
Mr Hazzard said: "One of my key priorities over the next five years is redressing the North's infrastructure deficit, particularly west of the Bann.
"I am determined to contribute towards economy growth in a regionally balanced way and I believe it is vital that infrastructure projects such as this are prioritised.
"My commitment to this area in delivering this £160m flagship investment will strengthen the links between Belfast and Derry and positively develop the A6 as a key transport route into the wider north west area. Road users and the local community will directly benefit from this new all-purpose dual carriageway as it will reduce journey times and improve road safety.
"I am confident that my decision to proceed with the scheme will come as welcome news for the construction industry."
Two of the most notorious traffic blackspots are at Moneynick and Dungiven, where commuters often sit in long tailbacks at peak travelling times.
Among those making the daily trip to Belfast from Derry is Stephen Kelly, CEO of Manufacturing Northern Ireland.
He said: "This is good news for hundreds of daily commuters like myself, but also for businesses from Derry through to Mid Ulster. It will cut journey times significantly once the Moneynick section has been completed in 2019 and the work on the Dungiven bypass, which is supposed to begin in 2018.
"It has been 51 years in the waiting for this road to be brought up to an acceptable standard and I hope the minister can escalate the pace at which the entire project is completed."
While Mr Kelly was relieved that work was about to begin on part of the route, the SDLP's infrastructure spokesman Daniel McCrossan MLA said it fell far short of what the Sinn Fein minister had promised.
Mr McCrossan said: "Someone needs to tell Mr Hazzard that the A6 does not end at Castledawson, it continues for around 40 miles before reaching Derry.
"The coupling of this nine-mile stretch of road between Randalstown and Castledawson is far short of what Sinn Fein promised to people west of the Bann during the election. We must also question why this development is taking place closer to Belfast than to Derry, when the minister claims that his goal is to address the economic neglect of the west.
"This announcement will be disappointing for the people of Dungiven who are still waiting for a bypass, and by everyone who will continue in a single lane of traffic over and beyond the Glenshane Pass."