Uncertainty hanging over the A5 project could yet provide an opportunity to progress calls for an upgrade of the A29 in Mid Ulster, according to a local councillor.
Mid Ulster Council is currently lobbying the Department for Infrastructure making arguments for improvements to the A29 which links the district’s main towns.
Ulster Unionist George Shiels says an upgrade would provide proper bypasses facilitating movement of goods and leaving urban areas safer and healthier and free to develop the economy of the entire district.
He criticised recent “conflicting statements” by the Republic of Ireland’s Transport Department, announcing, he said, the withdrawal of approximately £30m of funding towards the renovation of the long awaited A5 from Derry to Aughnacloy.
“The Republic of Ireland’s Transport Department decided to withdraw approximately £30m funding it had pledged previously towards the renovation of the A5,” he said. “The timing of the announcement was strange coming at a critical stage in the Brexit negotiations, but the parochial nature of politics south of the border has led to yet another volte face with an announcement that the funding would now be reinstated.
“Initially the Government of the ROI, as part of the St Andrew’s Agreement had pledged £400m towards the upgrade. Unfortunately a couple of years later in 2011 it decided to remove its contribution from the budget.
“The removal of that funding meant that the A5 work was indefinitely stalled and this was the catalyst that eventually led to the release of capital for the Magherafelt bypass instead - it has been an outstanding success.
“So the residents of Moneymore, Cookstown and Dungannon feel they deserve bypasses also. Perhaps our Department for Infrastructure may be looking for a home for the funding ringfenced up to now for the A5 project. What better home than the A29 upgrade in Mid Ulster.”
Councillor Shiels said he believed there was “a lack of confidence” in the ability and willingness of the government of the Republic of Ireland to deliver their part of the A5 deal. “Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure must now insist on a legal document which would guarantee the ROI funding prior to the construction work going ahead,” he continued.
He added that he hoped the “grey clouds of uncertainty” which hang over the A5 will present an opportunity to make arguments for the upgrade of the A29 along with the full weight of the council to officials from the Department for Infrastructure.