Belfast Telegraph

£4m for Belfast York Street interchange - just £161m left to find

By John Mulgrew

Funding for a long-awaited £165m roads project in Belfast is still up in the air despite some cash being freed up to take it to the next stage.

A fresh £4m has been made available to progress the York Street interchange development.

While the project, aimed at easing gridlock in the city, is back on course, the bulk of the money has yet to be found.

The aim of the interchange is to transform traffic flow where the Westlink, M2 and M3 converge.

The project is designed to separate traffic through underpasses below the existing road and rail bridges, as well as underneath a new bridge at York Street.

The majority of cash needed to build it - around 40% - was due to come from the European Union.

But the UK's vote for Brexit has altered the situation.

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard announced the £4m funding yesterday.

He said the money will bring the scheme to a "construction ready state".

And he confirmed that the awarding of contracts for the scheme will be progressed.

"This is an important step in the development of the interchange, which is seeking to address the traffic delays at this heavily congested location," he said.

"There is no doubt that a scheme of this scale represents a significant investment in our economy.

"By removing the traffic bottleneck, the new interchange will improve journey time reliability and road safety for motorists, including freight transport, and support the competitiveness of the Port of Belfast with improved links to the strategic road network.

"I am pleased to announce that funding of up to £4m will be allocated to allow the scheme to be developed to a point where construction could begin.

"The identification of funding for the construction phase will be dependent on future budgets and is unclear at this time.

"The consultation process recommended within the public inquiry report is now commencing with the local community and key stakeholders.

"The release of funding to allow a contractor to come on board to develop the scheme will improve the quality of this process."

In November the minister announced his decision to proceed with the scheme, subject to the availability of funding.

DUP MLA William Humphrey said: "The York Street interchange is one of the key transport infrastructure projects not just for Belfast, but for all of Northern Ireland.

"It would, however, be a particular boost to Belfast's citizens, commuters, business and tourism."

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