20/10/2016

£165m York Street Interchange Scheme 'On Hold'

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has put a £165million road project in Belfast "on hold".

Work on the York Street Interchange scheme was expected to started next year, however Minister Hazzard said while it is a project that could have attracted up to 40% EU funding, there would still be a 60% gap to make up.

He said: "My Department has of course been pursuing European funding for York Street Interchange through the Connecting Europe Facility. Unlike structural funds, this is a highly competitive funding programme with member states required to submit applications as part of a formal bidding process. This is implemented by a series of calls for funding. The next call for major projects is anticipated for early 2018. As a result, the funding stream for this project goes beyond the timeframe set by the chancellor.
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"To clarify the position on procurement of the York Street project specifically, the bidding exercise has now been extended so procurement decisions can be made in line with future funding allocations."

However, UUP Infrastructure spokesperson, Jenny Palmer MLA, said the project is "vital" to the economic wellbeing of Northern Ireland.

She said: "The York Street Interchange is the single biggest blockage in Northern Ireland's transport system. It is used by 100,000 vehicles every single day and is the source of major congestion. It is too important to Northern Ireland plc and our local economy to be put 'on hold'.

"The Fresh Start Agreement provided for up to an additional £350m borrowing for infrastructure projects with a profile over four years with £100m in 2015-16, £100m in 2016-17, £100m in 2017-18 and £50m in 2018-19. It is simply incredible that the York Street Interchange is not the top priority for infrastructure spend, given the number of vehicles that use it every day, its importance to the haulage industry and the congestion that would be alleviated."

(CD/LM)

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