Real danger of bottleneck on A5

A stretch of the A5 between Strabane and Newbuildings on the outskirts of Londonderry is to be upgraded first, with work set to begin in early 2018. Image from Google StreetView.
A stretch of the A5 between Strabane and Newbuildings on the outskirts of Londonderry is to be upgraded first, with work set to begin in early 2018. Image from Google StreetView.

Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey has warned that the upgrade of the A5 between Londonderry and Strabane could end up a fast track between two bottlenecks.

“My concern that the project should be mindful of any impact on the present route ends at both Newbuildings and Ballymagorry to the point that all that is being created is a fast route between two traffic ‘bottlenecks’,” he said.

“Officials have agreed that this should not be the case and I trust that their planning and design is taking cognisance of this possibility.”

Mr Hussey also said care had to be taken over the proposed route of the upgraded A5.

“For a considerable length of time I have advocated for improvement to our transport infrastructure in ‘the west’ with particular reference to the A5 connection through to Londonderry from Belfast via the M1.

My initial thoughts on this were that considerable improvement could be achieved through appropriate upgrading along the existing route of the A5 with additional works such a bypassing of some communities along the route to improve road safety and journey times to the North West.

“The Department, however, moved to taking infrastructure improvement via the establishment of a newly aligned route replacing the current A5.

“There has been understandable localised concern and resistance to this methodology particularly from those who will be most impacted along the route.

“The position is now that work will be commencing early in 2018 on Phase 1a of the A5 project which will be the construction of that part of the route between Newbuildings and just north of Strabane at Ballymagorry with an investment of £150m.

“The Department have apparently addressed matters relating to those habitat and environmental impact issues that have caused delay in the project thus far and this is to be welcomed. It is hoped that similar consideration can be also afforded to the inhabitants who will be impacted as the project proceeds.

“During a recent Democracy Week visit to a local Primary School that will be very much impacted both as the work is undertaken and by the route chosen I was shocked to learn that no one from the Department has been in contact with the school or its Board of Governors to discuss and explain what will actually be happening on their doorstep and to take on board the needs and concerns of staff, pupils and parents throughout the construction period.

“I have a concern that authorities have not yet fully engaged, on a one to one, with those who will be impacted as this work proceeds and am urging interaction to mitigate, as far as possible, actual or perceived concerns with the project.