Editorial: Tyrone crash tragedy highlights urgent need to make A5 safer

The utter tragedy of yet more lives lost in a crash on the A5 is, as Strabane priest Fr Declan Boland described it, "really too hard to comprehend".

Three members of the same family died in Thursday's crash near Aughnacloy. Dan McKane, his sister Christine McKane and their aunt Julia McSorley were killed when the minivan they were travelling in collided with a lorry. Four others in the van were taken to hospital. They were returning home to Strabane and Newtownstewart after attending a family funeral in England.

The community has rallied to support the family and friends, including at a vigil in Strabane and a Mass in Aughnacloy.

But the harrowing reality is that people have already had to do this far too often. It is too early to conclude what caused this week's accident but the A5 has already earned a reputation for being the north's most dangerous road, with almost 50 deaths since 2007.

That was when plans to upgrade 58 miles of the road to dual carriageway were first announced. At that time the A5 - essentially the northern stretch of the main route from Dublin to Derry - was already inadequate for the volume of traffic it carried.

As an infrastructure project, the A5 Western Transport Corridor is of obvious strategic economic importance - a better road between Derry and Dublin benefits everyone - but the price being paid in lives lost makes the case for improving it even more urgent and compelling.

That there has been almost no progress since 2007 will be looked upon by many as an indictment of how poorly Northern Ireland is run.

The scheme was initially forecast to cost around £800 million, with the Dublin government contributing £400 million. Since then, the estimated bill has spiralled to £1.6 billion. It is impossible to see how this can now be paid for, given the squeeze on Stormont's finances.

As well as funding issues, plans to upgrade the A5 have been beset by endless public consultations, legal rows and planning wrangles. A Planning Appeals Commission public inquiry is due to re-open on May 15.

While dualling the A5 should remain the ambition, this should not be prioritised at the expense of making smaller improvements at blackspots.

As Enough is Enough, an A5 campaign group born out of the death toll felt by the Tyrone GAA family, has said, there are "mitigating road improvements that might start saving lives now". This could include better lighting, road markings and signs at key locations.

Work on these measures should start immediately.