Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has confirmed that Derry to Dungiven upgrade project has been shelved until at least 2015.
Responding to a Parliamentary Question from Derry MLA Pól Callaghan, the minister stated that construction work on the key North West project will not now start until sometime after the 2011-15 budget period.
The answer does not even offer certainty that the project will go ahead after 2015.
Pól Callaghan said that the failure to fund the vital infrastructure project for the region will “dismay” the people of Derry.
“The Derry-Dungiven road upgrade is a key infrastructure project for the North West of the island and we simply cannot afford not to make this investment happen as soon as possible. It doesn’t say very much for this proposed budget that this vital project has simply been allowed to fall off the table.”
The Roads Service has estimated that the cost of completing the project will be between £320m and £390m.
The proposed dual carriageway is due to follow the existing route with a bypass at Dungiven to further reduce travel times.
Mr Callaghan, described the project - which is due to cover a third of the Derry to Belfast route - as an “essential piece of local infrastructure for the Derry area as well as a part of a key cross-border link across the north of the country”.
He added: “For tourism, trade and for everyday journeys we simply need to make this a priority. Talk about this Executive delivering for Derry rings very hollow at the minute. There is a lot of rhetoric about growing the economy but the prospects for job creation would be much better if this road project is speeded up. Investors need to have confidence that it will actually be built and to know when.”
Mr Callaghan launched a scathing a attack on Mr Murphy for failing to “inspire people” as to the benefits of the project as well as a “range of other issues”.
“This project was actually announced under direct rule in 2005 and people have asked me if there has been any transport benefit at all from devolution. In 2008, the scheme was listed in Road’s Service’s ‘preparation pool’, meaning it would start within 5 years. Three years on, it has been put on the ‘maybe sometime’ list. This isn’t good enough and it’s time to call time on this Minister’s failures,” he said.
Mr Callaghan added that his party believes funding can be found for the project. “The SDLP has shared ideas on how we can bridge the £4 billion budget gap - people can see them on our website. Even at this late stage, we would urge those ideas be taken on board rather than vital projects be sacrificed.”