It is dismaying that there is another delay to A6 upgrade

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The plans to build a dual carriageway between Belfast and Londonderry have hit another snag.

Environmentalists yesterday won High Court permission to seek a judicial review over an alleged breach of a directive on a protected area close to the A6 road upgrade.

The route is controversial because it travels through countryside linked to the brilliant Ulster poet, Seamus Heaney.

It is dismaying that this issue has achieved such significance now. This proposed route for the improved new section of road was identified nearly a decade ago.

Traffic levels between Belfast and Londonderry are, at points, still relatively low. This explains why the route has not been upgraded to motorway or dual carriageway earlier.

There are other reasons for the slowness in widening the single carriageway too, such as the fact that the Troubles meant that there were higher financial priorities.

But this is a route of huge symbolic significance, between Northern Ireland’s two largest cities, one that crosses the very heart of the country from its southwest to its northeast.

It is highly unsatisfactory that well into the 21st century inter-city traffic is still getting caught behind tractors and other slow moving traffic.

No wonder that the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce has described the latest delay as “extremely disappointing and very frustrating”.

Environmental considerations must of course be respected. In this case there are concerns about birds, badgers and bats, among other creatures and ecology. But we must not lose sight of the needs of scores of thousands of humans, and their reasonable travel expectations.

Wednesday’s Autumn Statement earmarked money for infrastructure. It is to he hoped that this legal obstacle to the A6 can be resolved, and diggers can soon move into place on it and other projects such as the York Street interchange, when they secure planning approval.