Europe may rescue the A6 upgrade development plan after it was overlooked for capital funding, Derry’s business chamber has revealed.
The European Investment Bank is keen to finance a major project in the North and it seems that the A6 project fits the bill perfectly, says Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.
The revelation was made in light of this week’s refusal by Finance Minister Simon Hamilton to progress either the long promised A6 upgrade or the legally stalled A5 development.
Richard Willis of the EIB confirmed to the ‘Journal’ that talks are ongoing with the Executive over a multi-million pound investment. “The EIB is in discussions with the Northern Ireland Government about a range of possible investment projects. However at present no further details can be given.”
Chamber President Philip Gilliland said although members “are extremely unhappy and disappointed” at the minister’s suggestion that the A6 and the A5 cannot proceed together - and that the A6 project will be held in abeyance until the A5 has been built - they hold out some hope of a European cash injection, at least for the Derry to Belfast route.
“There is a solution available. The European Investment Bank has stated that it is keen to finance a major project in Northern Ireland and the Belfast to Derry road meets the criteria. We urge the finance minister and the Department for Regional Development to be serious about accepting this loan finance and eliminate Northern Ireland’s transport bottleneck. The Executive can also consider recourse to the UK Guarantee Scheme to assist with accelerating progress on the financing.”
The city chamber of commerce has lobbied heavily for both the A5 and A6 upgrades but it is understood that many members are particularly keen to get on with the A6 development after the long running A5 proposal ran into legal difficulty. “The Derry to Belfast road is a vital road for the economy of Northern Ireland as a whole and specifically for Derry and the North West,” Mr Gilliland said.
In April a High Court judge quashed a decision to go ahead with a new £330m project. He held that there had been a failure to carry out an appropriate assessment of the Rivers Foyle and Finn Special Areas of Conservation under the habitats directive.