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Added on: 16th November, 2011
‘The A5 Western Transport Corridor scheme must proceed as scheduled in September 2012’, was the unanimous outcome of a meeting with the Chairs of Omagh, Strabane and Derry Councils and Donegal County Council, as well as the North West Region Cross Border Group, convened by the Chairman of Omagh District Council, Councillor Frankie Donnelly, on Friday afternoon.
The development of the dual carriageway from Aughnacloy to Newbuildings remains a deliverable project despite the announcement by the Irish Government of a reprofiling of its funding for the road. Following the further announcement on Friday evening that €50million would be allocated to the project in 2015/2016, and with the Northern Ireland Executive’s share of the funding in place within the budget, the construction of the A5 dual carriage way must now be undertaken on a phased basis. The Council Chairs are seeking an urgent meeting with both governments to get reaffirmation of their commitment to the A5 within an agreed timeframe, extended to take account of a phasing of the project which would be normal for the delivery of a scheme of this magnitude.
The meeting also unanimously agreed that the announced reprofiling of funding by the Irish Government should in no way mean the abandonment of the project. The development of the A5 Western Transport Corridor is a key cross-border infrastructure project and it cannot be allowed to fall away. Not only is it essential for the economic development and prosperity of the North West region into the future, but it is also required for road safety, to replace one of the most notoriously dangerous stretches of road on the island of Ireland with a safe transportation route.
While it is hugely regrettable that the bulk of funding from the Irish Government has been postponed, the reintroduction of €50million is recognition of the importance of this major cross-border infrastructural development project, which is still a key priority in strategic development plans on both sides of the border. The Councils welcome this as the start of the Irish Government’s commitment to €400million which it agreed to in the St Andrew’s Agreement.
The Councils and North West Region Cross Border Group say that the Northern Ireland Executive must now focus on delivering on its share of the development of the project and must not dissipate the £450million which is already committed to the A5 in the budget by diverting it into other capital projects. With this funding still in place, and the €50million committed by the Irish Government in 2015/2016, two-thirds of the proposed scheme, which is 55km of the total 86km length, could be delivered and completed in the currently planned timeframe, with the remaining 31km to be completed in an extended timeframe.
The Executive is urged to maintain its agreed expenditure profile of the project as set out in the Northern Ireland budget 2011-2015. It is understood that the financing for the project will be primarily from the Executive in the early stages with the bulk of the Irish Government contribution coming in years three and four of the project. With this funding already committed, the contractor teams already in place, and the statutory processes scheduled to be completed on time, the Executive must confirm that the construction phase of the project will commence on schedule in September 2012.
The proposed scheme for the development of the A5 WTC has been planned and designed in three sections: Newbuildings to Sion Mills; Sion Mills to South of Omagh and South of Omagh to Aughnacloy. Each of these sections could be divided into to two sub-sections, creating six blocks of work to be completed, which would allow the project to be progressed incrementally.