TRANSPORT Minister Danny Kennedy has re-affirmed his support for the Dungiven bypass scheme, estimating the appointment of contractors by 2015.
He did add, however, that the scheme is “dependent on other competing priorities and subsequent budgetary settlements.”
The Minister has also stated that an ‘Inspector’s Report’ into a public inquiry on the Dungiven bypass scheme is expected to be completed by the end of March, with an official departmental statement soon to follow.
He also raised the possibility of the “decision of the previous Minister for Regional Development to decouple the Dungiven bypass” being overturned.
The issue had been raised at Stormont by local Sinn Féin MLA Cathal ÓhOisín, who asked the Minister: “Whether the proposed funding for development work on the A6 project will prioritise the Dungiven bypass?”
Danny Kennedy responded: “The Northern Ireland Executive Budget 2011-15 allocated funds to continue development work of a dual carriageway from Londonderry to Dungiven, including a dual carriageway bypass of Dungiven, as one overall project. I am highly supportive of that particular scheme and, indeed, of a number of other significant projects, including the A26 Glarryford dualling, the York Street interchange and the A6 Randalstown to Castledawson.
I can confirm that planning development work for the complete Londonderry to Dungiven project is well advanced. Following the publication of draft orders for the overall scheme in December 2011, I approved the holding of a public inquiry to give objectors, supporters, Roads Service and others a fair opportunity to be heard and to put the case for and against the scheme. The public inquiry sat for six days between 24 September and 2 October 2012. The inspector expects to complete his report before the end of March 2013. Having given careful consideration to his findings and recommendations, I will, in due course, issue a response in the form of a departmental statement.
Construction of the Londonderry to Dungiven project, including the Dungiven bypass, will be dependent on other competing priorities, such as those that I referred to earlier and future settlements.”
Mr Ó hOisín followed this up with a supplementary question: “I thank the Minister for his answer. Can he give any overall indication of any of the delivery time frames for any of the component parts of the A6, including the Dungiven bypass and the Castledawson to Randalstown stretch?”
Mr Kennedy replied: “As I stated, planning for the scheme is well advanced. I hope to have all scheme development issues resolved by early 2014. The next stage would be to move to the procurement phase. It normally takes at least one year to go through the assessment procedures required to appoint a contractor.
“The focus of the strategic road improvements in the current Budget period to 2015 is on the delivery of the A8, A5 and A2 dual carriageway schemes. Therefore, the A6 will be dependent on other competing priorities and subsequent budgetary settlements. As I said, I am a firm supporter of it and other schemes. There is clear logic and proof that if you improve the overall road infrastructure, it helps business, helps move tourists and helps everybody else.”
DUP MLA George Robinson, who also took part in questioning the Minister, asked: “Will the Minister clarify whether he is aware of the impact on health and well-being that any delay to the Dungiven bypass will have on the local and wider commuter population?”
The Transport Minister replied: “There will be substantial benefits from the Dungiven bypass scheme, not least the improvement of air quality and a reduction of something like 60 per cent in the heavy vehicular traffic that goes through Dungiven.
“For all those reasons, I am aware of the representations that have been made by Members, Limavady Borough Council and others. The scheme would be well worth doing. If the Member wants to approach the Minister of Finance and Personnel to assist me in delivering it at the earliest possible stage, I will not stand in his way.”
Danny Kennedy, after being asked if he is willing to reverse the decision of his predecessor to decouple the Dungiven bypass, added: “We have made it clear that, if necessary, we can and will decouple it. We are not yet at that stage; there are processes to go through, and we will continue to progress both elements of that scheme, realising the potential benefits.”