Yet another key road scheme falls foul of a legal challenge

Morning View
Morning View

The York Street interchange project is one of the most important road plans in Northern Ireland.

It is the point in the road network where three of the busiest routes in Northern Ireland converge with a busy city centre: the M3, coming from Bangor and the Sydenham bypass; the Westlink coming from Lisburn and the west and the M1; and the M2, coming from Carrickfergus and the north and the northwest.

The road is particularly badly congested travelling from Fortwilliam towards the M1, but it is also frequently backed up in the other direction, often as far as Broadway roundabout, for traffic heading towards the M2 and M3.

One of the major triumphs of the DUP and Conservative government was a package of funding for the upgrade to a freeflowing flyover junction, an investment of £100+m which will benefit business and people across the community.

It will also benefit the city centre, by making it more attractive for motorists to avoid the heart of Belfast.

Now, however, this vital scheme is found to have had errors in its procurement process.

The case will be heard further early next month, and it is not yet known if the procurement will be rerun.

This is the latest major road scheme to be delayed by legal proceedings: the A5 and A6 have been beset by environmental and procedural objections.

Meanwhile, it is not even clear if civil servants can authorise major infrastructure schemes, now that the Sinn Fein Irish language veto has been indulged to bring Northern Ireland government to a halt and given that the British government is too concerned about a possible nationalist negative reaction to the introduction of direct rule.

This is a grim state of affairs. Road schemes take a long time to get through planning (despite past efforts to speed that process up). They also seem very vulnerable to legal challenge. This would be a bad enough combination without the political vacuum that has been allowed to prevail.