SF accused of ‘fudging’ on A6

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A Derry MLA has accused Sinn Fein of “pre-election fudges” over the timing of the planned A6 dualling scheme and Dungiven by-pass.

SDLP Assemblyman Mark H Durkan has hit out at former Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy and Derry Sinn Fein representatives for “obscuring the true timing” of the commencement of work on the route ahead May’s Assembly elections.

Mr Durkan made the comments after it was confirmed by current DRD Minister Danny Kennedy that work on the link will not “commence before 2014-2015, at the earliest” as funding is not available.

Mr Durkan said: “Before the election, Conor Murphy listed the Dungiven bypass as one of four projects for which budget allocations in 2011-14 would allow DRD ‘to begin construction’. This was followed up by a rash of statements in Foyle and East Derry papers saying the bypass was the department’s highest priority.

“The new DRD Minister Danny Kennedy has now confirmed to me the true position which we disclosed at the time: DRD never had the budget allocation to begin construction. The bypass will not begin before 2014 or 2015 ‘at the earliest’.

“Clearly, Conor Murphy and his cheerleaders sought to pass off minor funding for ‘continued development work’ as a work start, which it was not. Local campaigners should have been told the true position,” Mr Durkan added.

Thousands of people from Derry and North West journey to Belfast on a daily basis and Mr Durkan believes that, given the congestion and environmental impact “there is clear case” for proceeding with the bypass section ahead of the main dualling project.

“This is always what local people wanted. This case was not made, and the bypass has now been long-fingered as one element of the whole A6 project.”

While confirming the delay of the project in response to a parliamentary question from Mr Durkan, Mr Kennedy added that a public enquiry into dualling is due to begin soon.

“My Department’s Roads Service expects to publish an Environmental Statement, draft Direction Order and draft Vesting Order later this year for the 30 kilometre dual carriageway, including a dual carriageway bypass of Dungiven. Publication of these Orders will invite formal comment and objection and this will most likely lead to a public inquiry in Spring 2012, to examine the case for and against the scheme,” the minister said.