Northern Ireland

John O’Dowd: Too many lives have been cut short because of A5

Minister outlines priorities for roads, rail and water courses

Stormont Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd
Stormont Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd (Rebecca Black/PA)

Since taking office, I have prioritised investment in our roads, investing an additional £9.1 million to improve our roads and over recent weeks, I have announced road improvement schemes worth over £4m.

This will help boost the economy by improving travelling conditions for business, leisure, and public transport across the north.

I recognise there is much more to do as we seek to improve and protect our roads – and I will continue to work together with my Executive colleagues to press for more funding. However, despite this, we are delivering positive changes with more to come.

Properly investing in our infrastructure is critical if we are to build the foundations for better rural and urban communities. I say that because infrastructure is a major economic driver. It delivers for people every day by providing and maintaining the things we all need to go about our daily lives, and which make this place work.

By providing more efficient, accessible, and inclusive transport options, by removing traffic congestion from our cities, towns and villages; and by looking after our natural resources, we can help create new opportunities.

Supporting this work with an effective planning system, one that is properly resourced to become fully fit for purpose, will allow collaborative, efficient and timely delivery for local and regional needs.

Working with my department and others we want to create a transport network that safely connects the island on a north-south and east-west basis.

By encouraging more vehicles to travel on strategic roads, avoiding cities and towns, there is an opportunity to create a cleaner, greener environment. This would connect the north through dual carriageways, opening up our towns and improving safety on our roads.

Too many lives have been cut short or forever changed by serious injury because of road traffic collisions on the A5 and too many families are living with the devastating consequences. I have met with grieving families and witnessed their heartache first-hand.

We will support local councils in their aspirations to grow by developing transport plans which allocate road space in our urban areas for high quality public transport and active travel links, which will also help facilitate town and city centre living, a vibrant culture, improving people’s health and wellbeing alongside the development of a connected economy.

We want active travel to be every bit as normal as getting into a car by enabling and encouraging more people to make shorter journeys on foot, bike or wheeling.

The All-Island Strategic Rail Review presents an opportunity to develop our rail networks to promote regional balance and reconnecting people and communities by strengthening Belfast-Dublin rail services, creating a new line to the International Airport, as well as new services between Belfast and the north west, via Portadown and Omagh.

Protecting our water courses, investing, and developing our water and sewerage systems so that they are cleaner and greener, will play an important part in protecting our environment and ensuring it is equipped for the future.

This will involve investment in technological solutions, as well as the development of nature-based water conservation and management.

Getting infrastructure right – and investing in it – can deliver real benefits for our citizens, communities and the economy.

Infrastructure is a word we are all familiar with but let’s think about what it really means. In very simple terms, it’s the roads, footpaths and cycle paths, the buses, trains and ferries we travel on; it’s the water we drink, it shapes the places in which we live, work and enjoy – and so much more.

In other words, it all starts here.