The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has today officially announced its decision to proceed with the A5 dual carriageway.
Construction on the first section – between New Buildings and north of Strabane (phase 1A) – will be ready to start in early 2018, almost 11 years on from the original announcement for the major road project in July 2007.
The original decision to proceed with the dual carriageway was halted following a successful legal challenge in 2013. That ruling sent departmental officials back to the drawing board to address the areas of concern, which largely related to the Habitats Directive.
In October 2016, the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) launched a fresh public inquiry, presenting its report to DfI in May 2017.
Commenting on the progression of the scheme, DfI’s Permanent Secretary Peter May said, “This decision concurs with the recommendation that the scheme should proceed in the wider public interest.
“Before giving approval for the scheme to proceed, careful consideration was given to the PAC Report and the Department’s assessment of the environmental impacts of the scheme. In proceeding with the scheme, the Department commits to carrying out the necessary actions to implement the PAC recommendations and mitigation measures as described in the Department’s Statement and the Environmental Statement. Construction will start as soon as possible.”
The senior civil servant said the decision followed the “clear direction” from the previous Executive that the flagship project should commence as soon as possible.
“The outgoing Infrastructure Minister was also clear that the A5WTC scheme was a key priority,” said Mr May. “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 New Buildings 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 will cost around £150million to deliver. The Executive has budgeted £229m between 2016-21. The Irish Government has agreed to contribute £75million over three years. It is anticipated that Dublin could increase its contribution at some stage in the future to enable to construction of the further phases – Omagh to Ballygawley and Strabane to Omagh – to commence.
The section between Ballygawley and Aughnacloy remains on hold, pending clarification from the Irish Government on its proposals for the adjoining N2.
The Department will now publish the formal Notice of Intention to Proceed, make available to the public the PAC Report and the Department’s statement, make the direction order for the length of the scheme between New Buildings and Ballygawley, and make the Vesting Order for Phase 1a between New Buildings and north of Strabane.