Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

It’s time to scale back £844m road, urges UUP leader

Fresh concerns have been raised about the viability of Northern Ireland’s biggest-ever road project.

The £844m A5 dualling scheme would see 20 minutes shaved off the journey between Londonderry and Dublin.

But Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott has expressed fears over the cost of the project — and the ability of the Republic’s beleaguered economy to pay for it.

Of the total cost, up to £400m is to be contributed by the Irish government.

The plans have also sparked opposition from people living near the planned roadworks who are concerned about the loss of land and who fear they will be cut off from the 86km carriageway due to the low number of access points to the road.

In the wake of the economic difficulties being faced in the Republic and the huge cost to the Executive in Northern Ireland, Mr Elliott said the project should now be scaled back.

He said money would be better spent on other important projects in the health and education sectors and warned that the road could have a catastrophic effect on businesses in the villages it passes.

He said: "I have already expressed serious concerns over the funding of the new road by the Executive at a time of serious shortfalls in capital spend budgets and the ability of the Irish government to meet the obligations of their £400m contribution.

"It would seem from the latest communiqué of the North-South Ministerial Council that ministers have agreed a payment schedule for the project, but I still consider that this amount of money would be better spent on other important projects in the health and education sectors.

"I share the views of many of the people on both sides of the border that the project should be scaled down to a more modest version — this could be achieved at a fraction of the cost."

"It is estimated that thousands of acres will have to be sacrificed for the project, putting many farmers out of business. Residents of Aughnacloy and Ballygawley need to be made aware of the catastrophic effect it will have on their businesses and no longer will they be able to depend on passing trade as they will be totally bypassed." Mr Elliott urged the public to make their own minds up by viewing the plans for the road scheme, which are currently being displayed at a series of venues.

"I would encourage the public to view at first hand these plans and encourage them to lodge their objections to this totally unnecessary new road," said the UUP leader.

Earlier this year, green campaigners added their voices to the locals opposing the plans when they held a climate camp at Victoria Bridge. The Alternative A5 Alliance, which opposes the schemes, says a scaled-down 2+1 road, featuring sporadic overtaking lanes, would be more appropriate and cost-effective.

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