Cheaper design for NI road urged

 

THE GOVERNMENT and the Northern Ireland Executive have been urged to tell road engineers to come up with a more cost-effective design for a route linking Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, with Derry.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was quoted last week as saying those involved in the A5 dual-carriageway project should “look at making savings” as the current plan would involve the Government making a contribution of €460 million. At a public inquiry in Co Tyrone yesterday, PlanBetter – a joint initiative involving An Taisce, Friends of the Earth, Feasta and Friends of the Irish Environment – called on the two governments to issue fresh instructions to the road engineers.

The inquiry is examining proposals by the Northern Ireland Roads Service for a new 85km dual-carriageway from New Buildings, outside Derry, to Aughnacloy where it would join a new dual-carriageway being planned for the N2. “The current instructions given to roads engineers lock North and South into a high-cost venture,” said James Nix, of PlanBetter.

“Unusually, no lower cost alternative has been brought forward to compare against a greenfield dual-carriageway.” He said the project brief, agreed between Northern Ireland and the Republic at the height of the boom in 2007, called for the 85km four-lane road running substantially in parallel to the existing A5 from Derry to the border with Co Monaghan.

PlanBetter maintained that traffic volumes “provide no justification for the quantum of spending this involves” and that the alternative of undertaking “selected upgrades” to enhance the existing A5 was “clearly the most practical option”.

The estimated cost of the project is £800 million (€920 million), with £400 million (€460 million) to come from the Republic.

“Subsequent events have highlighted the ill-considered nature of a great deal of decision-making in the Celtic Tiger boom-time period, and the treatment of cross-Border road spending was unfortunately no different,” Mr Nix said.

Local residents, the A5 Alternative Alliance, Belfast-based roads engineers and environmental bodies from both North and South have made detailed representations to the inquiry in favour of upgrading the existing road.