Work on A5 dual carriageway expected to start in January
WORK on the first phase of the Derry to Aughnacloy dual carriageway is expected to start in January.
When complete, the new 55-mile dual carriageway will stretch from Newbuildings on the outskirts of Derry to the border at Aughnacloy.
The first phase will cover the Newbuildings to Strabane section of the road.
The A5 Western Transport Corridor, which is Ireland's largest ever infrastructure project, is being joint funded by the Stormont executive and the Irish government.
Plans to build a dual carriageway on the A5 route were first put forward in 2007. However, the scheme has been delayed by successive problems, including the collapse of the Irish economy in 2008 and a number of legal challenges against the development.
The Department of Infrastructure had hoped work on the scheme would start next month. However it said it now hopes to commence construction of the first scheme in January.
A spokeswoman said: "Following a public inquiry on the A5 dualling scheme, administered by the Planning Appeals Commission, the Department must fully consider the findings of the inspectors's report before any decision can be made on proceeding with the project.
"Subject to a satisfactory outcome from the report and the necessary statutory processes, the construction on phase 1a (Newbuildings to north of Straabane) could commence in January 2018."
It is anticipated that the road will significantly improve journey times between Derry and Donegal and Dublin, benefiting up to 400,000 people in the north west.
It is believed the improved road could cut journey times between Derry and Aughnacloy by up to 24 minutes while also reducing traffic accident rates.
Other benefits are likely to include increased inward investment in the north west with improvements for existing businesses.
Department for Infrastructure officials say the start date is dependent on there being no further legal challenges. They have also privately warned that political uncertainty in the north could also place the start date at risk.
Foyle MP Elisha McCallion welcomed the new start date.
“The development of the A5 is not only vital to improve road safety but is crucial to our economic and social future and any such (legal) challenge at this stage would represent a gross attempt to subvert the will and interests of the people of this region,” she said.
The anticipated total cost of the scheme was estimated at £870m in October last year. The Irish government has reaffirmed its commitment to provide £75 million of the £150 million cost of phase one (Newbuildings to Strabane).