Friday, May 24, 2024

A5 upgrade: ‘Set aside’ legal challenges, infrastructure minister urges

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The infrastructure minister has appealed to anyone considering a fresh legal challenge to the A5 redevelopment to think again and prioritise the need to save lives.

John O’Dowd also said he would be making a case to the UK government for extra funding for the long-delayed construction project.

Mr O’Dowd told the Assembly he was still giving careful consideration to a report compiled by the Planning Appeals Commission following last summer’s public inquiry into the road-building project.

The A5 has been the subject of calls for improvement due to the high volume of fatal collisions on the route, which links Derry with Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone.

A scheme to turn the road into a dual carriageway was first approved in 2007, but has been held up by legal proceedings and faced funding uncertainty.

Mr O’Dowd said there had been more than 50 fatalities on the road since 2006.



“Clearly with a new dual carriageway, where all travelling vehicles are separated from opposing traffic and where strategic traffic is separated from local traffic and local communities, there is significant potential to reduce collisions and fatalities,” he said.

During Assembly question time, Mr O’Dowd’s party colleague Nicola Brogan had asked about the potential for further legal challenges.

“Given the history of the legal challenges to this scheme unfortunately I do expect more legal challenges to it,” the minister replied.

“My department received the Planning Appeals Commission’s report on October 31. It’s a complex and detailed report which deserves careful study and response to. When I am in a position to do so, I will respond to that report and outline what I plan to do in the time ahead.

“But I would appeal to those who are behind these legal challenges to this project to look and listen to the statistics I’ve read out today. There are people dying on this road and the road needs to be upgraded. There is no argument about that. So, I would ask them to set aside the legal challenges.

“The PAC have given a detailed report on how the project can be delivered, taking into account all factors, including environmental, and people’s rights. I commit to the House to faithfully respond to that report in due course.”

DUP MLA Gary Middleton asked Mr O’Dowd what further funding was required for the project.

Last month, the Irish government reinstated a funding commitment to the project, announcing it would be spending 600 million euro on it.

Mr O’Dowd said he would be pressing the UK government to provide more financial support.

He said the Irish government contribution had given his department “headroom” to progress the project and said he would also be making a case for enhanced support from the Stormont Executive.

“For future years, I’m also engaging and plan to engage with the UK government,” he said.

“The A5 is mentioned in the UK Connectivity Report. I think there’s a responsibility therefore for the British government and the Treasury to contribute to this major piece of infrastructure, which gives both road safety to the people who use it, but also opens up economically that entire western side of the country, and we can therefore allow economic development to take place.

“It also connects our ports, connects our airports, it is connectivity in every meaning of the word and therefore I would hope and expect the British government to contribute towards it.”

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