The A5: ‘Mo money, mo problems’

The most significant factor regarding the fate of the A5 dual carriageway between Aughnacloy and Derry, is not the arguments eschewed by either of the respective pro and anti lobbies, but rather where the Department of Regional Development (DRD) is going to find the funds to pay for their share of the project, which latest estimates put at a massive £500m.

“Isn’t the Irish Government paying for it?” I hear you rhetorically ask. Well yes, Dublin did promise £400m toward the project, however that money is also destined for work on the A8 Belfast to Larne carriageway. Rough estimates from Wesley Johnston’s online labour of love devoted to road projects, puts the split between the respective projects at 85/15 (based on the roads costing the same per kilometre). Rough yes, but a £340m is still a reasonable, if not modest estimate of the A5’s share.

The latest estimates from August last year put the total cost of the A5 WTC (Western Transport Corridor) at £844m. This has risen from original estimates of £560m in 2007 and later of between £650m-£850m in November 2008. Speaking to a member of the A5 SRI team a few months back, he claimed the £844 figure was not final and expected it to come down. Even so, it isn’t likely to drop by much. 12 suggested amendments on the proposed route have been adapted by planners, a few of these will reduce costs, but not by any significant amount.

Problems encountered on work carried out on the A4 dual carriageway, which extends the four lanes of the M1 past Dungannon to the new roundabout at Aughnacloy, illustrate the potential for the cost of a major road project to even increase. During construction, a section of land at Cabragh collapsed, despite being reinforced with piling, forcing engineers to adapt a contingency plan.

Taking the figures as they are now, means the DRD will have to stoop up over £500m to pay for the A5.

The British Government’s recently published spending review indicates a 37% reduction on capital projects in Northern Ireland over a three-year period until 2014-15. Spread among the departments this still represents a major slash for DRD, particularly since construction of the A5 is set to begin in 2012 and be completed by 2015.

Despite assurances from the Irish Government claiming they remain committed with a payment schedule agreed, handing the money is another thing. I can’t see handing over £400m being very appetising for voters over the border, nevermind if/when a Fine Gael and Labour manage to form a government. Committing yourself to something and relinquishing that crisp pound note from your grab are two things altogether, no matter how good the cause is.

As a student I put my money where my mouth was by setting up a direct debit with Amnesty International. But when funds ran low, regardless of the important work my money was apparently doing for imprisoned African children, it was the first thing to go. The road infrastructure was arguably the best thing to emerge across the border from the Celtic Tiger years. However, reaching that hand past Emyvale may turn out to be one stretch too far.

I for one would be happy to see the completion of the dual carriageway linking Derry and Belfast via Tyrone and improving journey times to Dublin. The M1 had the goal at the outset to connect the North’s (then) two main cities, but stopping short of Dungannon the road just about managed to spill over the county border into Tyrone. Its incompletion symbolised the legacy of under-investment West of the Bann, with the result that many people (the Alternative A5 Alliance aside), who were happy to see the Irish Government step in at last finish the job.

But with spiralling costs, the burden has increased on Conor Murphy’s department. I posed a question directly asking where DRD intends to find the money, but all he did was reassert his commitment.

I am committed to progressing this project and the publication of the draft orders and the environmental statement for it will take place during the week commencing 15 November. The A5 scheme represents a significant link in longer term plans to improve connections between Dublin and the North West and publishing these draft orders will meet the third agreed milestone between the Executive and the Irish government on this project.
The A5 is a commitment contained in the Programme for Government and Investment Strategy and remains a priority for me as Minister, for the Executive, and as outlined last week at NSMC, for the Irish Government.”

To put it metaphorically, the engagement ring is on the finger and the church, reception venue and dress have been booked. But nothing has been paid for and there’ no marriage yet.

Regardless of the many merits (or de-merits depending on your view) of the A5. The real question here is not whether or not the A5 should be built, but rather the question is where the hell the money to finish it will come from.


About AldousDuke
Mid Tyrone journalist, not so freelance any more.

6 Responses to The A5: ‘Mo money, mo problems’

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The A5: ‘Mo money, mo problems’ « Aldous Duke --

  2. jinky says:

    The sooner it’s built the better, feckin worst road for hoors in tractors and trailers all the time.

  3. AldousDuke says:

    You’re not wrong. For example between Garvaghey (around 1.5 miles before Kellys Inn) and Strabane there is no over taking lanes for Northern bound traffic, more than 30 miles. Very frustrating.

    But that’s not the point. The point is locating the money to pay for it.

  4. Kieran Murphy says:

    The A5 will be built if the Government of a other country gives the DRD 500 million euro and subsidies from European Commission while at the same time the NI Executive have not the funds in their budget to upgrade the North South Railway at Lugan and the Programme for Government released over weekend does not mention it but maybe the Irish will let the British build and upgrade their own roads as thats what the British lets the Irish do in their country or will they fund the section from Auchnacloy to Dublin

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