The green light has been given today, Thursday, to the start of consultations on new draft Statutory Orders for a £150 million A5 Western Transport Corridor dual carriageway scheme.
Transport Minister Michelle McIlveen visited the Newbuildings and Strabane area this morning to make the announcement and formally launch the start of the consultation process. It means that work could get underway next year for a stretch of dualling, if plans go smoothly.
She also announced the publication of the draft Orders and the Environmental Statement, which will take place during week beginning 15 February 2016, will be followed by a public consultation period during which a series of public exhibitions will be held at venues local to the scheme.
The A5 Western Transport Corridor is one of five key Transport Corridors in Northern Ireland and the proposed upgrade will improve links between urban centres in the west of Northern Ireland.
Michelle McIlveen said: “The A5 dualling scheme is one of the Northern Ireland Executive’s flagship projects. Today’s announcement will begin a consultation process which, subject to successful completion of statutory procedures, will see construction start next year on the £150million Newbuildings to north of Strabane section of this road.
“This important project will not only have positive benefits for the local economy and construction industry but will also significantly improve safety and journey times for all road users.”
Once the consultation period has concluded, a decision will be made on the need for a Public Inquiry on the scheme, currently tentatively programmed for autumn 2016.
At this stage, the section south of the A4 at Ballygawley will not be progressed. This is in line with a recommendation from the Inspector’s Report from the 2011 Public Inquiry which stated that there should be a firm commitment from the Irish Government in relation to the N2 improvement scheme; and certainty in relation to funding provision for the construction of this section of the scheme.
Concluding the Minister said: “I am currently seeking accelerated passage for the Land Acquisition and Compensation Bill. This would bring compensation levels for landowners in Northern Ireland affected by compulsory land purchase on a par with England and Wales.
“Yesterday I received Executive agreement on the introduction the Bill. I would be hopeful that the Bill will complete its legislative process during this current mandate.”
Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton welcomed the progress, saying: “The first phase will begin from within my own constituency in Newbuildings to north of Strabane as early as next year.
“I have been on record on many occasions to voice support for the A5 project and I very much welcome the progress which has now been made on this important project. This project will benefit the local economy and the construction industry but will also improve connectivity and the transport infrastructure, while significantly improving road safety and journey times for all road users.
“This flagship project is a welcome boost for the North West and I look forward to seeing further progress over the coming months.”