Belfast Telegraph

Editor's viewpoint: Stalled A5 a parable for farce at Stormont

Editor's Viewpoint

Two things are certain when government announces any major project - one, that it will cost much more than originally stated and two, that it will take years longer than initially proposed.

In that respect, the proposed dualling of the A5 route from Aughnacloy to Londonderry is a classic case in point. Already it is 10 years behind schedule.

Not only that, but not a sod has been turned on the project. And the proposed cost is now expected to be over £1bn.

But what the hard pressed public - who are, after all, putting up much of the funding - will find hardest to swallow is that some £77m has already been spent. The bulk of that expenditure has gone to consultants (£47m) and contractors (£20m).

It is a project that has been beset by legal challenges and funding problems. Initially the Irish Government had pledged to put up £400m but withdrew it in 2011. Since then it has undertaken to give around £175m. Sensibly, it seems to be keeping the money in its pocket until it sees some progress along the road.

What also amazes the man in the street is that the project continues to leech money even though there is no functioning government at Stormont. The legal challenges are expensive and so are investigations into suggestions that the route may disturb the habitat of rare creatures.

And all of this is to create a road which may cut the journey time - according to the minister in charge when it was first mooted - by a mere 20 minutes.

Given the competing demands for finance from Stormont - the health service, education and practically every other day-to-day issue - surely there must be some way to stop, or at least slow down, the funding being spent on this road until work actually begins.

This one project could eventually use up all the money given to the NI Executive in return for the DUP propping up the Tory government at Westminster.

There are certainly greater immediate demands on that money, but of course there are no locally elected ministers available to make any decisions on spending.

If anything shows the farcical nature of the stand-off between the DUP and Sinn Fein over restoring devolution, it is this project.

It is something of a parable for Stormont at the moment - very expensive to upkeep but producing no real benefit to the public, with politics, like the road, stalled.

Belfast Telegraph


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