No Belfast neglect in transport plans, infrastructure minister says
A new focus on major road-building projects in the north and west of Northern Ireland will not see Belfast neglected, a Stormont minister has insisted.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard told his Assembly scrutiny committee that he wanted to dispel the myth he was ignoring the region's main city by pumping money into enhancing the A5 Dublin to Londonderry road and A6 Belfast to Derry route.
Mr Hazzard has expressed a desire to redress what he has described as an "historic imbalance" in infrastructure spending in Northern Ireland, claiming areas west of the River Bann have suffered through lack of investment for decades.
Committee chair and North Belfast MLA William Humphrey had questioned the minister why he had not included the planned new Belfast transport hub among the priority projects he outlined to members at the outset of his briefing session in Parliament Buildings.
Mr Hazzard said he was still committed to the transport hub but claimed the project was now facing "challenges" after the Brexit vote because a significant amount of funding was due to be sourced from the EU.
The minister has already warned the Assembly that up to £400 million of EU funding support for infrastructure in Northern Ireland could be lost when the UK leaves the European Union.
"There is no doubt there are challenges ahead for the Belfast transport hub but I am determined to meet those challenges," he said.
The Sinn Fein minister added: "I talk about infrastructure deficit in particular west of the Bann, that is not to suggest that Belfast, as the key city in the north, isn't important."
He said his department was committed to a series of key infrastructure projects in Belfast, including the new rapid transport system.
"Let me dispel any myth that's advancing that I am somehow a minister who does not have their eye on Belfast - that is absolutely not the case," he said.