LOCAL councillors have been told that the proposed A5 dual carriageway between Derry and Ballygawley may not be completed until 2028 – more than 20 years after the much-delayed project was originally given the green light.
During a meeting between Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and local roads officials on Thursday, elected representatives were given an update on the progress of the flagship scheme, which has been delayed by several legal challenges over the last decade.
Supporters say that it would boost the local economy and improve road safety, while opponents question whether a dual carriageway is needed and have asked why alternative proposals were not considered.
At the meeting in Enniskillen’s Townhall, acting divisional roads manager David McKinley said that the department was now progressing with work to enable a fresh decision on the scheme to be taken.
Mr McKinley told the meeting that, subject to various considerations, construction work on the project could start in 2020.
He added that, subject to further legal challenges, the entire scheme could be completed in 2028.
The roads official said that the department was currently working through more than 200 responses to an addendum to the Environment Statement that was published in May.
He told the councillors that the next step would “likely” be a new public inquiry into the scheme.
Mr McKinley said that, at that point, and in the continued absence of a Minister, the department would consider whether to issue a decision, taking account of the relevant legislation.
“Subject to these considerations, construction work could start in 2020, which from my engineering point of view, is a terrific prospect,” he said.
The acting roads manager stressed that the A5 remained a flagship project and funding was “not considered to be an obstacle”.
He added, “The Irish government remain committed to providing funding of £75 million over a three-year period.”
Speaking after the meeting, Alliance councillor, Stephen Donnelly, said that the projected completion date of 2028 would be a “disappointment” to the community in Omagh and further afield.
Mr Donnelly said, “They have been promised this significant and much-needed infrastructural overhaul for many years now.
“Given the tangible benefits that our community stands to gain from this investment, it is clear that the advance of this scheme must remain a priority for the department.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer, a long-time campaigner for the A5, said that his party would play its part in bringing the scheme forward.
“We are continuing our lobbying of the Irish government to raise their contribution to the scheme so that when the scheme commences next year that it will be completed within the earliest possible timescale.”
The Northern Ireland Executive first announced it would proceed with the A5 dual carriageway in November 2007.