Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has affirmed his commitment to delivering the A5 and A6 road improvement projects.
The Minister was speaking at a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) and SSE Airtricity ‘Minister on the Move’ event in Londonderry.
The event, which was attended by over 70 businesses from the region, was hosted at Slieve Kirk Wind Park - Northern Ireland’s first and largest grouped wind farm development, developed by SSE Renewables.
Speaking at the event, the Minister said he was determined to deliver infrastructure projects to connect people and address the infrastructure deficit west of the Bann.
He said: “The Executive’s Programme for Government is focussed on outcomes – outcomes that will create a prosperous economic future that will deliver for all our people.
“The sustainability and growth of our economy means having in place infrastructure that meets the needs of our people and our economy. Put simply the economy here in the North, and indeed across the whole island cannot grow if the infrastructure is not in place to support it.
“Improving transport connections is vital. The Executive has already made clear that flagship projects including the A5 and A6 are key to building connectivity and unlocking economic potential.
“Today I want to assure you that I am committed to deliver on these hugely significant projects that will finally address the historical infrastructure deficit west of the Bann.
“The A6 route between Derry and Belfast connects our two biggest cities. This is a vital link in making the north an attractive place for those choosing to live, visit, work or invest. I am determined to drive this project forward and complete the scheme to Drumahoe in this mandate, so we can maximise our offering and develop the economic potential across the region.”
“Construction of the first phase of the A5 Western Transport Corridor, from Newbuildings to north of Strabane, is due to begin in 2017 subject to the successful completion of the statutory procedures. However, I am currently looking at how funding could be increased to expedite delivery of the A5 scheme.”
Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of NI Chamber said: “Businesses rely on transport networks to move goods and people; on energy infrastructure to keep production lines and technology running; on telecoms to deliver services, and to connect with customers and suppliers. Failure to invest in capacity and maintenance is hampering business growth and costing jobs.
“A world-class economy needs world-class infrastructure to support economic growth, and businesses need certainty that crucial improvements will be delivered. Our members have long called for improvements in the strategic road network and NI Chamber therefore welcomes the Minister’s commitment to the delivery of flagship projects including the A5 and A6.
“I would also like to congratulate today’s hosts, SSE Renewables, on the development of Northern Ireland’s first grouped wind farm. The project brings with it a host of economic benefits, not just greening our energy supply, but also by contributing almost £750,000 so far to more than 100 local projects through the SSE Airtricity’s Community Fund, with 55 scholarships for local students progressing to third-level education.”
Mark Ennis, Chairman of SSE Ireland, said the company was delighted to host the NI Chamber of Commerce event, and especially to welcome Minister for Infrastructure Chris Hazzard to Slieve Kirk Wind Park on Global Wind Day: “Renewable energy depresses the wholesale price of electricity, makes significant contributions to the local economy and supports employment in Northern Ireland. Today’s ‘Minister on the Move’ event gives us an excellent platform from which to showcase the very real and evident economic contribution that renewable energy has delivered here.
“At Slieve Kirk Wind Park SSE is operating the largest wind farm in Northern Ireland, generating enough green power for 65,000 homes and saving 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere each year.
“Our investment at Slieve Kirk represents a total by SSE of £125 million, £55 million of which is being directly invested into the local economy. That’s making a real difference towards achieving a thriving low carbon economy and sustaining jobs.”