Northern Ireland should divert funds from the delayed A5 improvement scheme to shovel-ready road improvement projects, business lobby group the CBI said last week.
Schemes that have been through the Northern Ireland Executive’s statutory procedures should be allocated funds and contract procurement should start to prevent more construction jobs being lost, it said.
The CBI’s comments follow last month’s High Court ruling in favour of objectors to the £800M A5 scheme from Aughnacloy to Londonderry. Two sections of the project were due to start this year with £130M allocated to be spent in 2013/14.
Now the scheme is subject to delays while further environmental assessments take place.
This is expected to take around six months, but a further public consultation must then be carried out and the project as a whole is likely to be delayed beyond the end of the 2013/14 financial year.
CBI Northern Ireland director Nigel Smyth urged the Executive to ensure that the £110M A6 Randalstown to Castledawson dualling gets funding instead to allow work to start.
“It’s clear that the A5 scheme has stalled,” he said. “The A6 is a good strategic project that will clear bottlenecks that are hurting business, but the biggest concern is stopping a loss of construction jobs. The industry in Northern Ireland has already lost 30,000 jobs since the downturn started in 2007/2008. It is vital that the Executive takes the A6 scheme forward as soon as possible.”
An industry source close to Northern Ireland’s Roads Service said that it was very unlikely that the A6 scheme would start in the next financial year. “Even if funds are allocated it will take about 12 months to get contractors on board so it is virtually impossible to get going in 12 months.”