Northern Ireland news

'Clarity needed' on A6 finish date

The completion of the A6 upgrade has been delayed
Connla Young

ROADS chiefs have been urged to provide "clarity" after it was claimed that the opening of the multi-million pound A6 dual carriageway may be further delayed until next April - a year after it was expected to be ready.

The road project, which began in 2018, has been dogged by delays. The new route is seen as being of strategic economic importance and will improve travelling time between Belfast and Derry.

It includes around a 30 km stretch between Derry and Dungiven, incorporating a new by-pass around the town, which is a notorious bottleneck.

The estimated cost of the project, which is planned over two phases, is up to £420 million with the Drumahoe to Dungiven section priced out at up to £225m.

A single lane section of the road is currently open from Claudy to Drumahoe and includes speed restrictions that regularly cause delays.

Earlier this year a single lane was opened in each direction on the Dungiven by-pass, but was later closed.

Other parts of the route also remain closed to traffic.

A final section of the A6 upgrade between Randalstown and Castledawson was opened to traffic last year.

Well-known Dungiven based transport observer Paul McCloskey has claimed the long-awaited section of road may not now reopen until April next year.

Mr McCloskey, who has watched the development of the project closely, last night said it is difficult to obtain information from the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) about the delays.

"It's totally frustrating, you can't get any information," he said.

"The department won't say anything."

Mr McCloskey revealed he has now asked Sinn Féin DfI minister John O'Dowd for a meeting.

Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan, who is a regular user of the A6, urged the minister to provide more information.

"People need clarity to the exact reasons for the delay," he said.

Mr Durkan suggested the continuing delay is "another example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory".

"Here we are just trundling along and in the meantime we have so many different diversions, and I appreciate there has to be short term pain for long term gain, but this is dragging out beyond short term pain at this stage for commuters who use that road on a daily basis," he said.

"People depend on it getting to their work and about their lives."

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the department said "the Covid pandemic has had a major impact on delivery of the A6 scheme, including the Dungiven by-pass".

"Current market volatility is also impacting on delivery timescales," she added.

She said "the department and our contractors have sought to maintain progress on this strategically important road scheme" adding that work remains to be done.

"Although the scheme is now well advanced, a significant amount of work has still to be completed before it can be fully opened," she said.

The spokeswoman added "there are no issues with any of the bridges on the scheme".

Northern Ireland news