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After years of quibbling, work is to finally begin on A5 upgrade in 2018

By Allan Preston

News that Stormont has finally given the green light to a major upgrade on "the most dangerous road on this island" has been welcomed.

The Department for Infrastructure confirmed yesterday the first sod for the new 53-mile (85km) A5 dual carriageway would be cut early next year.

The first 15km phase - stretching from Newbuildings to Strabane - will cost £150m, with the Irish Government paying half over three years.

As yet no funding has been agreed for the remaining two phases - Newtownstewart-Omagh and Ballygawley- Aughnacloy.

The department's permanent secretary Peter May said the decision was taken following "clear direction" from the previous Executive.

A recommendation from the Planning Appeals Commission and the department's own environmental impact assessment also influenced the decision.

West Tyrone SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan described the current A5 as a "death trap" and said the new scheme could save lives and revitalise the economy in the north west.

"It's very difficult to measure how frustrating this process has been - it was promised 50 years ago, as well as in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998," he said.

"The A5 has taken so many lives in its current state and has prevented economic development, so this is an historic announcement."

Foyle Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion said: "This is a massive boost in terms of addressing the infrastructural deficit in Derry and connecting the north west to Dublin.

"The A5 and A6 roads are essential to the economic development of the north west and with work already under way on the Derry-Belfast route, today's announcement is another huge vote of confidence."

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said the investment had the potential to create hundreds of sustainable jobs.

With major upgrades also in progress for the A6, Mr Armstrong said it was a vital boost for the north west's economy.

"Once completed, all of the schemes, with the addition of the York Street Interchange, will significantly enhance Northern Ireland's strategic transport connectivity," he said.

But he warned that with no Executive currently in place, great care would be needed to balance resources for other areas such as road maintenance "to avoid a massive cliff edge" for the vast majority of firms not engaged in flagship projects like the A5.

Belfast Telegraph


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