A former roads minister has accused Sinn Fein of “political opportunism” around the announcement of a long-awaited major road upgrade.
Danny Kennedy also questioned how a final funding package for the A6 scheme was “denied” to him during his spell as regional development minister – despite his efforts in advancing the project “through its various technical stages and studies”.
The Ulster Unionist MLA was commenting following Wednesday’s announcement that around nine miles of the road between Randalstown and Castledawson will be upgraded to dual carriageway at a cost of £160 million.
The A6 runs from the M22 at Randalstown to the Toome bypass, and then from Toome through Dungiven and on to Londonderry.
At least three years of roadworks will begin this autumn on the scheme that was first announced as part of the Regional Transport Plan of 2003.
Confirming that work was ready to begin on the project, current minister Chris Hazzard said one of his key priorities over the next five years was “redressing the north’s infrastructure deficit, particularly west of the Bann”.
The Sinn Fein MLA said: “I believe it is vital that infrastructure projects such as this are prioritized.
“My commitment to this area in delivering this £160million flagship investment will strengthen the links between Belfast and Derry and positively develop the A6 as a key transport route into the wider North West area.”
Mr Kennedy said the minister was attempting to claim “sole credit” for political reasons.
“Clearly progress was made to allow today’s announcement to take place, not least the opportunity of funding for the scheme, which was denied me during my term,” he said.
Mr Kennedy said he looked forward to the project being progressed, and added: “So it is very wrong, and mischievous in the extreme for the current Minister of Infrastructure to attempt to claim sole credit for this scheme and it is yet another example of political cynicism and opportunism by Sinn Fein.”
The SDLP’s infrastructure spokesperson, Daniel McCrossan MLA, said the upgrade was only “a fraction” of what is required.
“Someone needs to tell Mr Hazzard that the A6 does not end at Castledawson, it continues for around 40 miles before reaching Derry,” he added.
Alliance South Antrim MLA David Ford has said he hopes the new dual carriageway will lead to increased road safety throughout the constituency.