85kms of dual carriageway

The A5 upgrade from Newbuildings to Strabane was due to get under way within weeks. (Google Earth)
The A5 upgrade from Newbuildings to Strabane was due to get under way within weeks. (Google Earth)

The Department for Infrastructure has confirmed that a fresh legal challenge to the A5 Derry to Aughnacloy road upgrade will impact on plans to start the first phase of the works within weeks.

The Department, in November, had revealed that it was planning to start the £150m Phase 1A of the project, which involved dualling the stretch of road between Newbuildings to north of Strabane, within weeks.

A spokesperson for the Department, however, has now confirmed: “Construction work on the section between Newbuildings and north of Strabane was due to commence in early 2018 with a view to completion in 2020, however, the Department has now received a legal challenge to the scheme which it intends to defend.

“The Department is currently seeking legal advice on this matter and will be making no further comment at present, although this is likely to delay the timetable for the scheme.”

The spokesperson also confirmed that it has appointed Joint Venture Contractors Balfour Beatty/BAM/FP McCann to undertaken Phase 1A of the project, adding that Phase 1A “has an estimated cost of £150m to deliver.”

Foyle Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion said the A5 project was “vital” and had received widespread support.

The Department for Infrastructure’s Permanent Secretary Peter May, meanwhile, said back in November, prior to the fresh legal challenge, that the decision to go ahead with the A5 Western Transport Corridor scheme “concurs with the Planning Appeals Commission recommendation that the scheme should proceed in the wider public interest”.

Both the Northern Ireland and Irish Governments, under the Fresh Start Agreement agreed in November 2015, have committed the funding for the first phase of the project.

The overall project is expected to see the A5 linked to the N2 south of the border and on to Dublin.

The A5 Western Transport Corridor dual carriageway scheme will provide 85 kms of dual carriageway from New Buildings, bypassing Strabane, Newtownstewart, Omagh, Ballygawley and Aughnacloy before terminating at the existing A5 south of Aughnacloy.

Further phases will be constructed on confirmation of funding, while Phase three between Ballygawley and the border at Aughnacloy is on hold pending clarification from the Irish Government on proposals for the adjoining N2.