The Department for Infrastructure has just announced its decision to proceed with the A5 upgrade, with construction of a 15km section between Derry and Strabane ready to start in early 2018.
The announcement about the Derry to Dublin road plans has been met with delight on both sides of the border in the north west, with the work to take place from Newbuildings to near Strabane.
Commenting on the progression of the scheme, the Department’s Permanent Secretary Peter May said: “Construction will start as soon as possible.”
“The decision to proceed takes account of the clear direction from the previous Executive that this flagship project should commence as soon as possible. The outgoing Infrastructure Minister [Chris Hazzard] was also clear that the A5 Western Transport Corridor scheme was a key priority.
“This is a strategically important project for the region and one which will benefit the economy as a whole, as well as improving journey times and road safety for the thousands of daily users of this route.
“In the current economic climate, this announcement of Phase 1a of the scheme - a 15 kilometre stretch of new dual carriageway from Newbuildings to north of Strabane - starting in early 2018 will be welcome news for the construction industry.
“The scheme should lead to an increase in demand for local suppliers of construction materials, as well as a boost to commercial trade in the surrounding area.
“There will also be a considerable focus on social sustainability with the construction contract incorporating targeted recruitment and training opportunities for both young and long-term unemployed people. Phase 1a has an estimated cost of £150m to deliver.
“Under the Fresh Start Agreement the Irish Government has agreed to contribute £75m over three years.”
The A5 Western Transport Corridor dual carriageway scheme is an Executive flagship project which will provide 85 kilometres of dual carriageway commencing just south of Derry at New Buildings, bypassing Strabane, Newtownstewart, Omagh, Ballygawley and Aughnacloy before terminating at the existing A5 just south of Aughnacloy.
Further phases of the scheme will be constructed on confirmation of funding, while Phase 3 (between Ballygawley and the border at Aughnacloy) remains on hold pending clarification from the Irish Government on its proposals for the adjoining N2.
Donegal TD Joe McHugh has warmly welcomed the announcement that the A5 has been given the go-ahead by the Northern Ireland authorities.
“This is a brilliant day for Donegal,” said Government Chief Whip McHugh.
“This Government has steadfastly supported the A5 financially and in every other way and today is a significant day for the county.
“The Department of Infrastructure Northern Ireland has announced the publication of the Departmental Statement and Notice of Intention to Proceed; the making of the Direction Order which covers the entire route from Newbuildings in Derry to Ballygawley in Co Tryone and the making of the Vesting Order for Phase 1a from Newbuildings to north of Strabane.
“The Orders would become operative in January 2018 and are among the final measures needed to allow work on the A5 to begin next year.
“The connection of Donegal to Dublin via a new A5 dual carriageway will attract more investment to our county, allowing Donegal to have a connection denied for decades.
“The Department of An Taoiseach and I have also made submissions to the British government seeking an extension of Phase 1a to beyond Sion Mills. This is strategically important for our Government and for Donegal as the link bridge to the new Lifford to Letterkenny road will be positioned south of Sion Mills. I am confident that this can also be delivered.
“This is a hugely important day for the people of Donegal and for the people of Derry and Tyrone at a time when we are working better together than ever before.”