Government engineers have said the proposed A5 dual carriageway in Northern Ireland is better value, will be safer and will affect fewer landowners than alternative proposals, according to the minister responsible for roads.
But Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy told the Assembly he would reserve judgement on the major Western Transport Corridor until completion of an ongoing public inquiry.
The Irish Government is to pay around £400M of the up to £850M cost of the dual carriageway running from Londonderry to Aughnacloy, with the route helping to link Donegal to Dublin.
The minister said his department’s engineers had considered the merits of providing a new dual carriageway against upgrading the existing route, or adding a “two plus one” carriageway, which effectively involves creating over-taking lanes.
He said they found that a new dual carriageway was the most cost-effective project, with the alternatives expected to take up a greater amount of land and likely to affect 50 properties, as opposed to the planned demolition of seven homes for the dual carriageway route.
“Also, in terms of road safety and journey times, the benefits of a dual carriageway are greater than those of a 2 plus 1 solution,” he said.
“Undoubtedly these issues and arguments will get a proper airing at the public inquiry and I will reflect on the inspector’s views and recommendations when I receive his final report.”
Mr Kennedy detailed how £35M had been spent on preparatory work on the proposed route.
He said the Irish Government, which is committed to backing the dual carriageway upgrade of the A5 and the A8 at Larne, had already supplied £8M and was expected to agree a further £11M payment this month.
The minister said all those affected by the proposal had to be given a fair hearing and he also warned against political posturing over the issue.