Sorcha Eastwood: scheme to fix ‘embarrassing’ A1 dual carriageway needs to get a move on

Concern has been expressed at the lack of progress on a scheme to upgrade Northern Ireland’s main arterial link to the Irish Republic.

By Graeme Cousins
Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 6:17 pm
Sorcha Eastwood wants to see urgency ramped up on the A1 improvement scheme
Sorcha Eastwood wants to see urgency ramped up on the A1 improvement scheme

Alliance councillor Sorcha Eastwood described the A1 as “an embarrassment” and called for urgency to address safety issues.

In January, after a Public Inquiry and Inspector’s Report, Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon made her decision to proceed with the A1 Junctions Phase 2 road improvement scheme, addressing safety issues along a 25km stretch of the dual carriageway between Hillsborough and Loughbrickland.

The minister later said the scheme “should be progressed as quickly as possible”.

The A1 at Dromore

Ms Eastwood has been frustrated with the delay in getting the scheme underway: “In terms of value for money and the public purse, we know that there’s going to be inflationary rises across the board, we know globally that there are rising costs associated with building and major public works and infrastructure.

“Surely would it not be in the best interests to try and get this speeded up and given the level of urgency reflective of the situation that would also mean it would be done at a better cost.”

She added: “A1 is our main north-south corridor from Belfast to Dublin and yet it is dangerous and an embarrassment.

“It used to be people would have been criticising the roads in the south, now it’s the other way round.

“We want Northern Ireland to be able to compete on the world stage, for business, for tourism. It breaks my heart to see it left in this shabby and unsafe state.

“There’s so many communities along this dual carriageway, it’s impacting on them every day.

“We must see urgency and delivery on this key issue not just for people in Lagan Valley, but for all of Northern Ireland.”

Minister Mallon said that “good progress continues to be made” on the scheme.

She said: “I am very aware of how important the A1 improvements are for all those who have lost loved ones or incurred injuries during incidents as well as the many people who have expressed their support for the scheme.

“I am pleased to report that good progress continues to be made on the scheme. The Statutory Orders for the scheme have been made with the Direction Order coming into operation on July 16, 2021 and the Stopping Up (of Private Accesses) on July 24, 2021. Work is ongoing on the preparation of an economic appraisal for the scheme. The next step would then be the commencement of the procurement phase, including the preparation of contract documents.

“I am fully committed to progressing this project at pace and I will be in a position to consider the next steps following the completion of the economic appraisal and consideration of my competing priorities following the outcome of Spending Review 2021 from which budget baselines will be set for future years.”

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