April 2021 start date at the earliest for Derry to Strabane section of A5: DfI

Senior civil servants this week confirmed construction on the Newbuildings to Strabane stretch of the £1 billion A5 is unlikely to start until next April at the earliest.

By Kevin Mullan
Friday, 12th June 2020, 3:18 pm

At the Stormont Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday it was revealed that because the Inspector’s Report into a fresh Public Inquiry is not due to September work is not expected to start in 2020/21 as had been hoped.

Dr. Andrew Murray, the Department of Infrastructure (DfI) deputy secretary with responsibility for roads and rivers, explained: “When we give estimates for how long that will take they are estimates because we don’t know how long the inquiry will take.

“We don’t know how much evidence is going to have to be considered by the inspector and then we don’t know how long the inspector is going to take to consider that evidence.

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“Now, when we see the inspector, we are expecting his report in September, officials then have to consider the findings of his report and we have to make a recommendation to the minister before the minister decides what to do on that.

“That, unfortunately, is going to take us to the point where we don’t expect to be spending money on construction in this financial year.”

Foyle MLA Martina Anderson complained about the delay: “Why are we only being told now that this is going to have a knock-on effect, one week after receciving notification from the Finance Minister that £9.2m was being allocated to the A5 for the stretch of the road that we were quite interested in that would have led in from Newbuildings in Derry into Strabane? Now we hear that this can is being kicked down the road because, obviously, of the report not coming onto your desk and onto the minister’s desk until later than what was envisaged.”

John McGrath, DfI’s deputy secretary with responsibility for transport and resources, said: “Obviously the Public Inquiry to which I gave evidence, the inspector will determine when he submits his report.

“The result of him coming in in September means that no matter what happens it’s unlikely there will be any construction spend this year. That, in one sense, is disappointing but it’s just a fact of dealing with statutory processes.”