Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Time to scrap this road to nowhere

It is a route which is gaining a reputation as the road of the damned.

The A5 dualling scheme between Aughnacloy and Londonderry was to be the biggest roads project in the province when it was first mooted. Indeed the Government in the Republic was willing to put up a large part of the cost since the improved road would create better cross-border access.

It was a huge investment by the two administrations totalling more than £800m, and would have created thousands of jobs during the construction phases.

But the project has started to unravel since those heady days of 2007.

With the Republic virtually going bankrupt and the Government falling, the cross-border funding fell through.

Although Stormont is keen to press ahead with part of the roadworks, it has now come up against another obstacle – fish.

A judge has threatened to quash plans for dualling the road because the impact on important fishing rivers has not been considered.

Of course major road schemes are often beset with environmental considerations. It is right and proper that the impact on important animal habitats or flora is taken account of, but usually these considerations can be overcome because of the greater benefits from the scheme involved.

But there is now serious doubt if this road scheme is as necessary as first suggested and if it can be justified in the present economic climate.

The environmental impact under consideration here is very important. The Irish salmon is near to extinction and the two rivers under the microscope are important breeding grounds which have been given special status and must be protected.

While it would be improper to prejudge what the courts will say, Roads Minister Danny Kennedy might be best advised to pull the plug on this project voluntarily, saving his department a large sum of money which could be put to better use in other vital infrastructure projects around the province.

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