£400 million boost for NI roads

The government has unveiled a proposed £400 million package of major road upgrades for Northern Ireland.

Roads Minister David Cairns today made the announcement, which will now go into a consultation period.

Commenting on the announcement, David Cairns said: "This package of improvements is part of the ongoing investment being undertaken in Northern Ireland's infrastructure which is essential to encourage economic development.

"It is to be funded as part of the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland (ISNI) in which an extra £400 million has been earmarked for major improvements to the trunk road network during the period up to 2015.

"This is over and above the £1 billion already in the pipeline, and means that proposed investment in Northern Ireland's Strategic Road Network now stands at £1.4 billion - the highest in real terms for over 30 years."

The Minister continued: "Even with this level of funding however, choices have had to be made, as not every scheme can be funded. While we believe that this package makes best use of the funds available, the consultation I am announcing today will afford all those interested an opportunity to comment on our proposals. These comments will be considered before I finalise the programme this autumn."

The proposed list includes a new £130 million A5 route from Derry to Strabane and on to Victoria Bridge, bypasses of Enniskillen, Fivemiletown and Ballykelly and a £10 million package of improvements for the A32 between Omagh and Enniskillen.

Other schemes are also proposed elsewhere to deal with bottlenecks on highly trafficked routes, including a £50 million scheme to provide a flyover junction carrying Westlink over York Street as well as dualling on the A26 from Coleraine to Ballymoney and the A3 from Portadown to Richill.

On the main A1 route to the border, there will also be a new £45m link between the M1 and Hillsborough to take through traffic past Sprucefield, and four additional flyover junctions on the existing dual between Hillsborough and Loughbrickland which, in addition to the four already programmed, will turn this section of the route it into an expressway with no movements across the central reserve and a continuous central safety barrier.

This package is in addition to an already extensive programme which, in the next few years, will see the completion of schemes like the M1/Westlink upgrade, high standard dualling of the Belfast to Dublin route, the A4 from Dungannon to Ballygawley and the A6 from Randalstown to Castledawson, which will be followed by schemes towards the end of the 2015 period like the dualling from Derry to Dungiven which the Secretary of State, Peter Hain announced last December.

Roads Service's Director of Network Services, David Orr, said: "The Government's Investment Strategy envisages that this additional roads funding will be available to us towards the end of the 2015 period. But it is important to start planning now, because major schemes like these have lead-in times of at least six years from the time they are included in the programme until work starts on site. We need to do extensive feasibility studies to select the preferred routes; undertake environmental studies, ground surveys and economic appraisals; and then progress the schemes through the statutory procedures of environmental statement, planning approval, land acquisition and procurement. So this consultation is an important first step towards getting the work on the ground."


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