A5 upgrade: ‘Start work now’ is the message from business, campaigners and politicians

The upgrade of the A5 Derry-Dublin road upgrade has been stalled at the planning stage
North west campaigners hope the upgrade of the A5 road can go ahead following the Irish government's commitment to the project

Business and political leaders have joined road safety campaigners across Derry, Donegal and Tyrone to demand that plans to upgrade the A5 road proceed immediately.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday he expected work on the new A5 dual carriageway between Newbuildings and Aughnacloy to start this year after his government committed €600m (£513m) to the project which was first agreed in 2007.

The upgraded road will slash travel time between the north west and Dublin. Road safety campaigners have also claimed it will make the road much safer for users. More than 50 people have been killed on the A5 route since plans for the upgrade were first confirmed in 2007.

Chief executive of Derry’s chamber of commerce, Anna Doherty said the safety of road users was of prime importance. However, Ms Doherty said the dualling of the road would bring huge benefits to the north west economy.

“The dualling of the A5 will also greatly increase connectivity between the north west and Dublin, helping to drive inward investment and ensure regional balance. This increased investment from the Irish government is good news and we hope that work on the project will begin shortly,” Ms Doherty said.

Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd has welcomed the funding announcement and said despite some remaining challenges he is confident work can start on the A5 upgrade before the end of the year.

Letterkenny chamber chief Toni Forrester said “connectivity” was a constant issue with investors thinking of establishing in north Donegal. Ms Forrester’s said that the taoiseach’s hope that work could start on the road this year might be a little ambitious. When complete, the Donegal business leader said it predicted huge benefits for job creation and the economy.

“I have been with the chamber for 17 years and 17 years ago we were promised this road by ministers on both sides of the border,” Ms Forrester said.

However, like her Derry counterpart, Ms Forrester said the most important benefit would be a road safety one.

Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP, Órfhlaith Begley said the announcement represented “positive progress”.

Ms Begley said: “The current A5 road has been the scene of heartbreak for too many families and has been held up for too long by objectors.”

SDLP West Tyrone MLA, Daniel McCrossan said the Irish government’s commitment would help “fix one of Ireland’s most dangerous roads”.

The road safety issue was also raised by the Republic’s Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue who lives in Inishowen. The Fianna Fáil TD said the upgrade was “crucial” from a road safety point of view.

In Derry, SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood said no-one should be put at risk through using the A5.

“I would urge those who continue to object to this project to think about the impact they’re having and stand aside so that we can deliver these much-needed improvements for everyone,” he said.

Earlier Niall McKenna of the “Enough is Enough” A5 road safety campaign said people were not prepared to accept the failure to upgrade the route.

He told BBC Radio Ulster: “this road is quite literally killing our members and we have a duty of care to see that end.”