Progress on major road projects set to be further delayed due to collapse of Executive
A MAJOR road projects across Northern Ireland will be stalled further following the collapse of the Executive, with a major motorway interchange in Belfast "the most precarious", a roads expert has warned.
In recent months the Stormont executive has been making attempts to progress three major road schemes; the York Street interchange in Belfast, the A5 linking Derry and Aughnacloy and the A6 between Derry and Belfast.
All have run into difficulties amid concerns over funding, the holding of public inquiries and opposition through judicial reviews.
Wesley Johnston, who runs the Northern Ireland Roads blog, told The Irish News that although Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard remains in post until the election on March 2, his capacity to make progress on road projects is limited by the current impasse.
On Monday, hours before an election was called, Mr Hazzard announced that he had instructed officials to progress planning and development work on the Newry Southern Relief road.
Mr Johnston said: "The minister is still in place until the election, but ultimately he can't do anything that requires Executive approval. I can't see any other major announcements happening.
"The York Street Interchange can't go anywhere. It's teh most precarious. There is no budget agreed for it and for them to go ahead and appoint a contractor would require approval from the Executive.
"The money has been allocated to the A5 and A6 and that means those projects can proceed. The challenge to the A6 is only to half of it so depending on the outcome of the judicial review the department may wish to proceed with half of it."
Mr Johnston said roads projects could suffer however if direct rule is imposed.
"The last time we had direct rule the funding for roads went way down. The investment that we have had in roads in the past 10-15 years has been comparable to the major motorway building of the 1960s."