MLA voices his frustration as A5 road upgrade is hit by yet another legal challenge
The long-awaited £800m-plus upgrade of the A5 is facing another legal roadblock as campaigners against the development launch a new court challenge.
Already, more than £80m has been spent on legal wrangling over the controversial road plan, which has been stuck in the slow lane for a decade.
Yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph learned that a senior official at the Department for Infrastructure has confirmed that a fresh legal challenge on the notice to proceed for the A5 Western Transport Corridor (A% CWT) has been received.
It's understood the new legal action has been launched by the Alternative A5 Alliance - the group behind previous attempts to block the multi-million pound scheme.
The A5 Western Transport Corridor (WTC) project was originally given the go-ahead by the Northern Ireland Executive back in 2007.
The plan envisages the A5 being upgraded to a dual carriageway from the border near Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone, via Omagh and Strabane, and on to Londonderry.
But for 10 years the project has been in limbo amid legal wrangles and funding issues - and all the time the bill has spiralled upwards.
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan - a passionate advocate of the A5 scheme - slammed the new legal move to stymie the A5 upgrade.
"This is yet another stall tactic by a group that has no support across this area," Mr McCrossan told the Belfast Telegraph last night.
"Instead of believing in better for our citizens, they are dragging people back into the past.
"The A5 WTC is absolutely critical for the future of the North West and west of this province - as it has the potential to both transform and to save lives.
"It will bring necessary investment and increase connectivity, which creates more jobs for people.
"It will also save the lives of many people, especially young people, as the current road is one of the most dangerous in Ireland," he said.
"Too many people have lost their lives so far.
"I have every confidence that the department, under the stewardship of Peter May, will succeed in quashing this application for judicial review.
"I have kept in close contact with the department in recent months - and they have assured me that they've done all that is necessary to ensure this scheme proceeds.
"The A5 will be built and has support across the island - this small group will not succeed in preventing the necessary investment or the protection of human life."
Mr McCrossan added: "The west has waited long enough for this vital project. They will not succeed."
Legal challenges have dogged the A5 project since it got the initial green light from the Northern Ireland Executive more than 10 years ago.
It was estimated that the 58.2 mile-long dual carriageway would cost between £650m and £850m, and was to attract funding from the Irish Government.
But in 2013, a High Court ruling brought the landmark project juddering to a halt.
Revised plans were drawn up and put forward, and - after a second legal challenge failed in late 2016 - the first phase of the scheme had been expected to get underway last year.