Work to finally start in early 2018 on long-awaited A5 Derry to Dublin route
WORK will start early next year on the first section of a new dual carriageway on the A5 Derry to Dublin route, a decade after the long-awaited upgrade was first sanctioned.
The Department for Infrastructure gave the go-ahead yesterday for construction to begin on a stretch between Derry and Strabane at a cost of £150 million.
When complete it is hoped the new road will cut journey times between Derry and the border at Aughnacloy by almost half hour, while also reducing accidents.
While final hurdles to the work were cleared earlier this year, it was feared the absence of a Stormont executive would further delay the project.
First planned in 2007, the dualling of the A5 would have been the largest road scheme ever undertaken in Northern Ireland but was hit by financial setbacks and legal challenges.
The first phase will now start at Newbuildings outside Derry and run to just north of Strabane in Co Tyrone.
The “A5 Western Transport Corridor” aims to improve transport links between the north west and Dublin by providing a dual carriageway all the way past Strabane and Omagh to the Monaghan border at Aughnacloy.
Funded jointly by the Stormont administration and the Irish government, the first phase covers approximately 15km (9 miles), while the entire scheme will cover a distance of 85 km (53 miles).
Peter May, permanent secretary at the Department for Infrastructure, said construction would start as soon as possible.
“The decision to proceed takes account of the clear direction from the previous executive that this flagship project should commence as soon as possible."
John Armstrong of the Construction Employers Federation said it would lead to the creation of “hundreds of sustainable jobs” over the course of the project.
Irish government chief whip and Donegal TD Joe McHugh described the announcement as a “hugely important day for the people of Donegal and for the people of Derry and Tyrone”.
Foyle Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion said it would help address an infrastructural deficit in the north west.
“The A5 and A6 (Derry to Belfast) roads are essential to the economic development of the north west and with work already underway on the Derry-Belfast route, today’s announcement is another huge vote of confidence for the future of the north west economy.”
SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan also the A5 was a “critical infrastructure project”.
“The best way to attract jobs west of the Bann, where they are most needed, is to build roads to bring them here,” he said.
Roads expert Wesley Johnston said it is the second time that construction on the A5 has been given the green light, with work halted almost immediately five years ago by a legal challenge from environmentalists.
"The financial landscape has changed since 2012 so the road is now going ahead in phases. This is not ideal, but it does mean that work on the stretch between Derry and Strabane should get underway within months," he said.
"Within a couple of years work should also get underway on the Ballygawley to Omagh stretch. Many in the west and north west will welcome this much-needed upgrade."