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Last Updated: Monday, 31 July 2006, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Road network to get 400m upgrade
Work is under way on the road between Newry and Dundalk
Work is under way on the road between Newry and Dundalk
Details of a proposed 400m package to upgrade roads across Northern Ireland by 2015 have been outlined.

Regional Development minister David Cairns announced a two-month consultation period on Monday.

The plan includes 130m for the road from Londonderry to Strabane, a 50m Westlink fly-over and 10m to improve the Omagh to Enniskillen road.

Up to 1bn has already been set aside for major improvements until 2015, but this money will fund fresh schemes.

By-passes are planned for Enniskillen, Ballykelly and Fivemiletown and there are plans for a new 45m link between the M1 and Hillsborough, to take through traffic past Sprucefield.

Other projects include a 50m scheme to provide a fly-over junction carrying Westlink over York Street, as well as dualling on the A26 from Coleraine to Ballymoney and the A3 from Portadown to Richill.

The proposed investment in Northern Ireland's Strategic Road Network now stands at 1.4bn - the highest in real terms for over 30 years
David Cairns
Regional Development Minister

Mr Cairns said not every roads scheme in Northern Ireland could be funded and, as a result, he was putting the proposals out to public consultation before plans were finalised in the autumn.

"This package of improvements is part of the ongoing investment being undertaken in Northern Ireland's infrastructure which is essential to encourage economic development," he said.

"It is to be funded as part of the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland (ISNI) in which an extra 400m has been earmarked for major improvements to the trunk road network during the period up to 2015.

"This is over and above the 1bn already in the pipeline, and means that proposed investment in Northern Ireland's Strategic Road Network now stands at 1.4bn, the highest in real terms for over 30 years."

David Orr of the Roads Service said it was important to plan for the future.

Roadworks on Westlink in Belfast
Road users will be asked their opinion on where the money goes

"Major schemes like these have lead-in times of at least six years from the time they are included in the programme until work starts on site," he said.

"So this consultation is an important first step towards getting the work on the ground."

South Down assembly member Margaret Ritchie, of the SDLP, said that while the extra investment was welcome, it had to be followed up quickly with action on the ground.

"It must also be made clear that funding allocated for any of these projects will not affect budgets for existing upgrades and maintenance," she said.

Strangford Alliance assembly member, Kieran McCarthy, said there had to be a greater focus on making rural roads safer.

"Rural roads claim the vast majority of lives taken on our transport network, and so it is rural roads that need the bulk of the investment," he said.

Ulster Unionist assembly member Norman Hillis urged the Roads Service to push ahead with plans for a bypass around Ballykelly village.

"Traffic is regularly backed up considerable distances into and out of the village during peak times and this in turn creates delayed journey times for motorists," he said.

Sinn Fein's Pat Doherty welcomed the plan but said it fell short of the investment needed on a main arterial route between the north-west and Dublin.

"The improvements earmarked for the A5 and A32 are a step in the right direction in tackling the infrastructural deficit in this part of the world," he said.

"However, if this region is expected to compete on an equal basis with other regions of Ireland in economic terms, the reality is that it requires comparitive transport infrastructure with other regions."

The 1bn programme was announced last year while the extra money was first proposed in December.

Watch the roads minister talk about the proposals

Westlink upgrade gets under way
13 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland
Hole appears in road budget
14 Nov 05 |  Northern Ireland

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