Belfast Telegraph

How many more will have to die before something is done about lethal route?

The A5 road outside Londonderry
The A5 road outside Londonderry
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

It's now more than 11 years since the Northern Ireland Executive agreed to proceed with a plan to build a new A5 dual carriageway between Londonderry and the border at Aughnacloy.

In that time, 32 people have sadly lost their lives on the road, which passes through Strabane, Newtownstewart, Omagh and Ballygawley.

It may be overly simplistic to blame the road itself for those tragedies. But there can be no doubt that dual carriageways are safer.

Those who doubt that lives could be saved need not look far. At the end of the A5 at the Ballygawley roundabout, begins the A4 dual carriageway.

Opened in late 2010, the new road effectively extends the M1 motorway past Dungannon deeper into Co Tyrone.

Prior to Christmas 2010, the old A4 held the reputation as one of the most dangerous roads in the country.

In the six years leading up to the opening of the full dual carriageway, the PSNI recorded 97 collisions. Nine people lost their lives in the period. By contrast, in the five-and-half years after it opened, there have been just 19 collisions. Tragically two people died, but 17 of those 19 road incidents were classed as 'slight' by police.

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As someone who drives the length of the A4 10 times a week, I can testify that it is simply the best road in Tyrone.

The competition isn't exactly stiff. In terms of the A5, there is a distinct lack of dual carriageway and safe overtaking lanes along the existing route, which is one of the key arterial routes linking the west to Belfast and Dublin.

Heading north on the A5 from Ballygawley to Omagh, motorists sample two short overtaking lanes. However they won't encounter another until they are near Londonderry.

Throw in agricultural and freight traffic, and it can quickly turn the A5 into one of the most frustrating roads in the country.

In October 2016, in the wake of the death of 23-year-old Caoimhe O'Brien from Newtownstewart, I embarked on a project to try and put the tragedies into some perspective. To my horror, I discovered that Caoimhe was the 30th person to die on the road between 2006 and 2016.

Seven more names have joined the list since then. It means that since 2006, an average of three people have died every year.

The question is, how many more will follow before something is done?

Belfast Telegraph


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