Additional delays to the upgrade of the notorious A5, Northern Ireland's most dangerous road, will cost more lives, a Sinn Fein MP has warned.
West Tyrone MP Orfhlaith Begley was speaking after Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon told a Stormont scrutiny committee she was facing a shortfall in her £800m budget, which will have an effect on the department's funding of its flagship projects.
She said that instead of the full amount, she had been allocated £558m, which will have an impact on two major projects in the north-west - the dualling of the A6 and A5.
While the A6 between Londonderry and Belfast has seen significant progress, eradicating long traffic jams at Moneynick, work on the A5 from Derry to Aughnacloy has faced multiple setbacks, including legal wrangles and funding woes.
Mrs Mallon told the committee the reduction in her budget, coupled with the impact of coronavirus restrictions, would inevitably mean delays to the start of work on the A5 and further progress on the A6. More than 40 people have lost their lives on the notorious A5 since 2006 - a death toll that Ms Begley warned would increase unless the upgrade was urgently prioritised.
"Delays in this upgrade will ultimately cost lives," she said. "I have written to the minister to request an urgent meeting. I will use this opportunity to reiterate the need for construction to begin without delay."
The A5 dualling will be jointly funded by Stormont and the Republic's Government which, according to Ms Begley, remains committed to the project.