Green light for £330m road upgrade

A £330 million scheme to upgrade two stretches of road across two counties in Northern Ireland has been given the green light.

Work to build dual carriageways between Derry and Strabane and Omagh and Ballygawley, Co Tyrone, will begin in the autumn and take two-and-a-half years to complete. It could mean as many as 800 new construction industry jobs.

Regional Development minister Danny Kennedy signalled the go-ahead following a public inquiry in the aftermath of objections by farmers whose land will be affected by the development of the A5, which carries a huge volume of traffic.

The first stretch runs for around nine miles between New Buildings on the outskirts of Derry and Strabane, and the second, 14 miles between Omagh and Ballygawley.

A recommendation to upgrade the road between Ballygawley and neighbouring Aughnacloy on the Tyrone/Monaghan border has been postponed. The minister said the new roads were key to the development of the economy. They would also help safety standards.

He said: “There are almost 1,400 junctions and accesses onto the existing A5 which contribute to the potential for accidents along this route.

“The collision history is a factor which cannot be ignored and the A5 upgrade will help to reduce the number of collisions by providing improved cross sections, forward visibility and alignment as well as separating strategic and local traffic.”

The public inquiry was held following an outcry by farmers and community groups. Environmentalists claimed the project would impact on the poor and vulnerable because of the funding needed to meet the costs.

Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland director James Orr said: “To build vast stretches of new road when our existing transport network is struggling to cope is to tarmac our way straight down a dead-end street.

“Perversely, the proposed scheme will likely make congestion worse, as motorists converge on the bottlenecks at the ends of each stretch of new road.”