Danny Kennedy says A5 road upgrade will proceed

A5 road The Irish government has reduced its funding for the project from £400m to £42m

Roads Minister Danny Kennedy has given the go-ahead for two stretches of dual carriageway to be built along the A5.

The project, which will cost £330m, will improve the roads between Ballygawley and Omagh - and New Buildings and Strabane.

It is the longest road scheme ever undertaken in NI.

Danny Kennedy said the improvements would make the roads safer and create work for the local construction industry.

"We anticipate that this will create a boost for the road construction industry, in the region of 800 jobs," he said.

"Obviously there will be spill-off jobs also to the local economy and as well as that it will improve the overall road infrastructure in the west with a significant opportunity to move goods vehicles and local people to the benefit of the local economy."

Mr Kennedy said the proposed scheme would help to improve road safety and provide a more appropriate standard of road on this key strategic route.

"There are almost 1,400 junctions and accesses onto the existing A5 which contribute to the potential for accidents along this route," he said.

Opposition

"The collision history is a factor which cannot be ignored and the A5 upgrade will help to reduce the number of collisions by providing improved cross sections, forward visibility and alignment as well as separating strategic and local traffic."

The minister said he was aware of "strong local opposition" to some "elements of the scheme".

"Every effort has been made to reduce the impact of the road scheme on property and landowners," he said.

"The rights of those affected are safeguarded and they will receive compensation in accordance with a series of Acts of Parliament, case law and established practice.

"In addition to the legal safeguards I assure those land and property owners that Roads Service will continue to work to reach agreement and resolve, where possible, any outstanding individual difficulties."

Work on both stretches is expected to start in the autumn and will take around two-and-a-half years to complete.

The 15 km northern section of the scheme between New Buildings and Strabane will be constructed by the Balfour Beatty/BAM/FP McCann joint venture.

Construction of the 23 km southern section between Omagh and Ballygawley will be carried out jointly by Graham/Farrans.

At the southern end it is also proposed to upgrade the link between the new road and the existing Ballygawley roundabout to dual carriageway status to ensure continuous dual carriageway/motorway entirely between Omagh and Belfast.

A public inquiry into whether the upgrade should go-ahead attracted more than 2,000 objections to the plan.

The inquiry was ordered by the former regional development minister Conor Murphy in May 2011 into the environmental impact of the scheme and vesting issues around it.

At 85kms - nearly 55 miles - long, it is the longest road scheme ever undertaken in Northern Ireland.

It aims to create a key cross-border business route linking Dublin to the north west.

Funding

The scheme will mean the demolition of around seven homes.

The Stormont Executive has already committed £330m towards building sections of the road.

The overall cost is expected to be £850m, £400m of which was to be paid by the Irish Republic. It later withdrew this and offered £50m instead.

Funding in the current budget period is committed to constructing the two stretches of the scheme.

The construction of the remainder of the scheme is dependent on the availability of funding through the Investment Strategy for NI 2011-21 and subsequent budget settlements beyond 2015.

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