Belfast Telegraph

Construction on 'critical' A5 Western Transport Corridor to start early 2018

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Construction on the A5 Western Transport Corridor scheme is set to begin in early 2018, the Department for Infrastructure has confirmed.

The first phase of the project will see a 15km stretch of road upgraded to a dual carriageway between New Buildings on the outskirts of Londonderry and Strabane.

It will cost £150m to deliver, with the Irish government contributing £75m to over a three-year period under the Fresh Start Agreement.

SDLP West Tyrone MLA Danny McCrossan welcomed the news and said the project "remains one of the most critical infrastructure projects on the island".

"People in the west have been waiting for far too long on the A5 development. Promise after promise has been broken and people here are now highly cynical of the entire scheme," he said.

"We know that investment is dependent on transport infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce and soft infrastructure development. The best way to attract new jobs west of the Bann, where they’re most needed, is to build roads to bring them here."

Speaking about the progress of the scheme, the Department for Infrastructure's permanent secretary Peter May said its decision to proceed with the scheme followed the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) recommendation continuing would be in the public interest.

"Before giving approval for the scheme to proceed, careful consideration was given to the PAC Report and the Department’s assessment of the environmental impacts of the scheme," he said.

The PAC produced its report after a public consultation was held between October and December last year, looking at the potential environmental impact of the road upgrade.

"In proceeding with the scheme, the Department commits to carrying out the necessary actions to implement the PAC recommendations and mitigation measures as described in the Department’s Statement and the Environmental Statement.  Construction will start as soon as possible," Mr May added.

The A5 Western Transport Corridor project plans to put 85km of dual carriageway in place between New Buildings and Aughnacloy, bypassing Strabane, Newtownstewart, Omagh, and Ballygawley, terminating south of Aughnacloy.

In August figures released to the Belfast Telegraph showed almost £80 million had so far been spent on the project, despite it having being stalled for a decade.

Foyle Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion welcomed the Department's decision, and said it would be "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 underway on the Derry-Belfast route, today’s announcement is another huge vote of confidence for the future of the North West economy," she said.

Further stages of the scheme will be carried out with the confirmation of future funding.

In the Executive's 2016/17 Budget gave an indicative financial allocation of £229m for the period between 2016-2021.

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