Over £80 million has now been spent on the delayed A5 dual-carriageway since the scheme was first developed just over a decade ago, with a total of £51 million of this going towards consultants.
The figure has been described by one local Assembly member as ‘alarming’ in light of the fact that work on the major infrastructure project has been delayed again following the publication earlier this year of the latest Planning Appeals Commission report.
It comes after the Department for Infrastructure instructed its staff to prepare further reports on the topics of flood risk and possible alternatives in line with the recommendations put forward by the PAC.
This means that a fourth public inquiry is now likely to be required sometime in 2022 for a scheme originally envisaged to have reached completion in 2012.
The latest statistics released by the Department for Infrastructure show that the highest total was the £14 million allocated for the 2009-2010 financial year when the scheme was first being developed. This was followed by over £11 million in 2010-2011 and £12 million the following year.
But, as the scheme has been delayed due to legal challenges, the figure for 2020-21 was down to £1.8 million.
The DUP’s Tom Buchanan, who obtained the figures through a question to the Minister said the fact that no work had been done on progressing the road was a matter of ‘grave concern’ and ‘alarming’ especially considering that there was nothing to show for the investments made. He said the only winners were the consultants.
Sinn Fein’s West Tyrone MLA, Declan McAleer said the new A5 is fundamental for improving road safety and the economic fortunes of the west.
“The recent Planning Appeals Commission report wants the Department to engage in further, more robust environmental assessments and to further demonstrate that the current design of the scheme is the best option for the north-west,” he said.
“This is despite the fact that we know that the benefits that the A5 dual-carriageway will bring to the west, and indeed to the wider north-west, cannot be matched.”
SDLP MLA, Daniel McCrossan, claimed the biggest hurdle to the project is a ‘small minority.’
“Let us address the elephant in the room, that the biggest hurdle to the project is a small minority who, day and night, seven days a week, 365 days a year, they are finding reasons to object to the project and to delay its progress,” he said.
“People have died in the time that has passed. In the past few years, 15 people have died. Sinn Fein and I have our fights and our arguments, as do the DUP and I. But we are united to our core regarding the need to deliver this absolutely essential infrastructure project.”