Fears over funds from Republic for £844m road
The Irish government remains committed to paying hundreds of millions towards Northern Ireland’s largest road scheme — despite news of major roads funding cuts in the Republic.
Irish Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has pledged £400m towards the A5 and A8 upgrades in Co Londonderry, yet this week he told the Republic’s National Roads Authority (NRA) that funding must be reduced to £654m a year.
The minister has ordered the NRA to “reprioritise” 123 roads projects as a result of the funding cuts, including everything from motorways to town bypasses.
Yesterday Ulster Unionist Assembly Member Tom Elliott said serious doubts had arisen over the ability of the Irish government to pay the money that has been pledged to the controversial A5 upgrade, which would see the present road dualled from just outside Derry to close to the border at Aughnacloy.
Most recent official estimates for what would be Northern Ireland’s largest road scheme cost it at £844m.
But a spokesperson for the Republic’s Department for Transport last night said: “The situation is that the government remains committed to this contribution despite the difficult economic situation.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Regional Transport in Northern Ireland said the road scheme remains on target to meet the next key milestone and a public inquiry is likely to follow. Mr Elliott said he had serious concerns over the funding of the 88km road upgrade. He added: “The A5 undoubtedly needs huge improvements but the traffic levels simply do not justify a motorway.
“Many have expressed their strong views over the impact this road will have on the countryside and many farmers will have their farms decimated when an upgrade would be sufficient. If ministers on both sides of the border wish to prioritise future spending there needs to be a complete rethink on this route and they must indicate immediately if this scheme in its present form is to go ahead. The continuing uncertainty over finances and anxiety for land owners cannot continue.”