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Northern Ireland set for infrastructure boom

Northern Ireland is set for a huge boost in infrastructure investment following its Executive's first draft budget last week.
The Draft Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland will see £5.6bn spent on infrastructure projects in the next three years; 25% more than the last three years' spend by central Government.

Among the mooted projects is a new rapid transit system for Belfast along two routes in the city to be operational by 2012.

Executive finance minister Peter Robinson told a special sitting of the Assembly that this year's budget represented a clear break with the past and a new direction for the future.

He added: "The days of Direct Rule Budgets with Labour Party priorities are over. This Budget comes with the proud stamp: 'Made in Northern Ireland'."

Regional development minister Conor Murphy has welcomed the draft budget which allows for at least £18bn in infrastructure spending over the next 10 years.

The Belfast's new rapid transit system, currently under consideration, is likely to follow a route linking the city centre via the Titanic Quarter to the George Best City Airport and another linking Dundonald to the city centre and on to the west of the city.

It remains to be decided however whether this system will be a light rail or express bus service.

Roads in Northern Ireland are also set to be winners in this budget.

"Our roads network would benefit from some £572M of investment over the three years to 2011," said Murphy.

"That would result in a significant increase in the size of the motorway/dual carriageway network, reduce journey times and improve access to urban centres and regions in the north."

Northern Ireland Water has secured £646M to improve water and wastewater infrastructure with Belfast's ageing sewage system at the head of queue for maintenance investment.

The Department for Regional Development (DRD) will assist Translink (Northern Ireland's integrated bus and rail public transport company) with the investment of £137M in railways.

Around 20 new trains could be procured to replace existing rolling stock and provide additional capacity.

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