15/02/2011

Shore Road A2 Upgrade Hit By Cuts

There's a row brewing over news of wasted cash after a major Co Antrim road project has been abruptly shelved.

Following the revelation that the Roads Service has already spent £16m on the A2, Roy Beggs MLA has again questioned why the Minister proposes to commit £675m on the (separate) A5 before completing its investment in the A2 Belfast road.

"It is wasteful of public funds and excessively disruptive to the local community to invest almost one third of the cost of completing a project and then put it on hold," he fumed.

The Alliance East Antrim MLA Sean Neeson has also called on the Sinn Fein Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy to reconsider his decision to postponce the A2 Shore Road upgrade for four years.

That's in spite of £16m having already been spent on the A2 for surveying and buying-up of surrounding land and properties.

"The Department for Regional Development should give the go-ahead for the A2 upgrade bearing in mind all the money that has already been spent on it.

"I am concerned that the Minister has not looked at this issue with all the correct facts and has made a party political decision instead of deciding what is in the best interests of the area," said Mr Neeson.

"I am calling on the Minister to reconsider his decision. We have been campaigning on this issue for over 20 years, we cannot wait another four years for this vital road scheme."

A Department for Regional Developmet (DRD) spokesman said: "Depending on the outcome of the final budget, Roads Service would manage any properties purchased in line with current policy."
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In January, the DRD made its draft budget available for consultation with road building the biggest casualty with the A6 Randalstown to Castledawson and York Street flyover projects also delayed.

But, some projects have escaped the cuts - including the A5, Londonderry to Aughnacloy Road - a part of a major cross-border plan even though it now has to go to a public inquiry before that road-dualling project starts.

At 85km, it was the largest road scheme ever undertaken in Northern Ireland.

Yesterday, the SDLP Regional Development Spokesperson, Conall McDevitt welcomed the announcement that the public inquiry into the proposed A5 road is to proceed.

The South Belfast MLA said: "It's important that all voices are heard during this process.

"I also call on all the major southern parties to reaffirm their support for the A5 and A8 projects," he said, commenting on continuing doubts about the Dublin government's commitment to funding its part of this major western road scheme and the Co Antrim A8.

The A8, which is a spur off the M2 in Newtownabbey between Belfast and Larne, has also been approved within the Stormont budget.

But, in counterpoint to the many cutbacks, an extra £9m has also been earmarked for roads maintenance schemes

The Minister Conor Murphy said: "This additional money is particularly timely, given that the coldest December in over 120 years has had an impact on our road network.

"The freezing conditions experienced in December have caused carriageways to split and potholes to form and Roads Service is giving priority to the repair of the affected roads.

"Roads Service has contingency plans in place for spending any additional funding with its contractors and we expect that work will start very shortly for this additional structural maintenance work."

See: A5 Road Project Facing Inquiry

(BMcC/GK)

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