MP hits out at delay to Northern Ireland A5 road project as inquiry opens

The public inquiry into the impact of Northern Ireland’s biggest road project has opened. he A5 Western Transport Corridor, which was first proposed in 2007, involves 53 miles of new trunk road linking Newbuildings in Co Londonderry and Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone and will cost more than GBP1billion. But the project has been stalled by a number of factors, including two legal challenges by protest group the Alternative A5 Alliance. The campaign group consists of stakeholders in the Co Tyrone area such as farmers and landowners who oppose the compulsory purchase of land for the project and who have raised environmental issues.

We implore the Department of Infrastructure to take that leap of faith and replace the proposed road scheme with the re-instatement of the railway and at the same time upgrade the existing A5 John Dunbar

Sinn Fein MP Orfhlaith Begley said the delays due to legal challenges, the most recent of which was brought in 2018 when the Department for Infrastructure halted plans to proceed with the road, were “deeply frustrating”.

She described the Alternative A5 Alliance as a “small and unrepresentative minority” group and the work vital to stimulate the economy in the north west and improve road safety. “The Department for Infrastructure has estimated that the new A5 could prevent more than 2,000 crashes, 2,750 casualties and 19 fatalities over 60 years,” she said. “Considering there have been 1,024 casualties, including 22 fatalities over the last seven years, this could be seen as a conservative estimate.”

The inquiry, which is being held at the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, will discuss the possibility of road work affecting air quality, cultural heritage, landscape and visual effects. The Belfast Telegraph has attempted to contact the Alternative A5 Alliance. Speaking to the BBC, chair of the organisation John Dunbar said the group would continue to object to the plans because they were “contrary to the common sense needs” of the people of the area.

“We implore the Department of Infrastructure to take that leap of faith and replace the proposed road scheme with the re-instatement of the railway and at the same time upgrade the existing A5 road with additional passing opportunities and other affordable general improvements,” he said. “This approach will go a long way to relieving the stress of upwards of 300 farmers and property owners who, for the past decade or more, have had their properties blighted by the threat to carve a great chunk of some 3,000 acres of farmland along the path of the A5.” Ms Begley said she was committed to addressing the wider environmental issues over the course of the inquiry, including air pollution and ecological conservation.

“The A5 has faced many delays over the years, to the detriment of road safety.

It’s well past time for work to commence on this crucial project,” she said.

The Department for Infrastructure has been contacted for a response.

Belfast Telegraph

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