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New doubts over city's £165m roads revamp

By John Mulgrew

Published 21/10/2016

Heavy traffic on the M2 heading into Belfast, towards its intersection with the M3 and Westlink
Heavy traffic on the M2 heading into Belfast, towards its intersection with the M3 and Westlink

Belfast's on-hold £165m York Street Interchange scheme may not be able to apply for crucial EU funding until 2018 - casting further doubt on its future.

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said uncertainty over EU funding had put the project at risk.

The interchange was intended to solve Belfast's increasing traffic problems, and aimed to transform traffic flow where the Westlink, M2 and M3 converge.

Around 40% of the funding needed to build it was due to come from the European Union.

This week, it emerged that the project had been put on hold.

Mr Hazzard said the next call for EU funding was early 2018 and "as a result, the funding stream for this project goes beyond the timeframe set by the Chancellor".

He added that the Executive had set out four flagship infrastructure projects, including the Belfast Hub and Belfast Rapid Transit projects, as well as the A5 and A6.

"There are of course other significant capital projects like York Street Interchange, and I and my Executive colleagues fully recognise the importance of these projects," he explained.

"However, the reality is that progress on all of these will be determined by the scale of resources available from the forthcoming budget process."

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said it was critical that the department speedily addressed how the scheme could be advanced.

"We are often too quick to rule out other forms of alternative finance when it comes to our infrastructure needs," he added. "It is arguable that the interchange is now the opportunity to reconsider that approach."

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