Editorial: The delay to the Westlink reflects some of the bad planning of roads in Northern Ireland

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News Letter editorial on Thursday April 11 2024:

When the DUP reached a confidence and supply agreement with the then prime minister Theresa May in 2017, it secured a number of commitments.​

One of those commitments was to advance the crucial York Street interchange, which links the Westlink from the M1 to the M2 and the M3 bridge.

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It is the busiest part of Northern Ireland’s road network. Someone travelling from Larne to Dublin would use it as would someone travelling from Enniskillen to Belfast City Airport or someone driving from Newry to Carrickfergus.

The project will also have an environmental benefit by separating such fast moving, intercity traffic from local and pedestrian movements in and around north Belfast.

The DUP was being shrewd and generous in securing such a project that would benefit people from across the community in Northern Ireland, although it got no credit for that.

The project was first commissioned 17 years ago, in 2007, to address the inevitable bottleneck that it has become, yet it now looks like it will not be finished for perhaps another 11 years – if at all. Thus, at best, it will take almost 30 years from commissioning to completion, or perhaps far longer.

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This is a reflection of a number of problems with NI road-building, one of which is short sightedness. It is far better to build roads properly at the time, with full flyover junctions, rather than, as at York Street, traffic lights or, as elsewhere, roundabouts.

Building properly at the time costs more money but ultimately saves money because you do not have to overhaul the road and its junctions decades later.

Northern Ireland was once far ahead of the Republic in its road network. Now the latter has a much better motorways. Much of it was funded by the EU but much of it by tolls – something Stormont did not even consider.