Monday, May 20, 2024
GeneralMLA FEARS BYPASS SCHEME IS AT BOTTOM OF THE PILE

MLA FEARS BYPASS SCHEME IS AT BOTTOM OF THE PILE

THE long-awaited Ballynahinch bypass project has been put “to the bottom of the pile of infrastructure priorities”, an MLA said yesterday. Harry Harvey was commenting after the Department for Infrastructure published a list of major road schemes it will be prioritising. The local bypass project is not one of the schemes which will be prioritised. Mr Harvey, who represents the Ballynahinch area, said he is “absolutely disgusted” about this and added the bypass scheme would be a “real lifeline” for local people and visitors.

On Monday afternoon the Department for Infrastructure released a statement listing the schemes that are to be prioritised. The statement also set out why it has taken this step. “Prioritising the development and delivery of major road schemes has been necessary because of the department’s challenging budgetary position, along with constrained resources and commitments under the Climate Change (NI) Act 2022,” a spokesperson stated. “This combination of factors has changed the landscape considerably, meaning delivery of the major roads programme as previously set out is no longer sustainable nor appropriate.”

The department added that the list of roads to be prioritised “includes the closing out of projects that have been recently constructed as well as the continued development of schemes that have been identified as Executive Flagship projects and those included within City and Growth Deals”. “Road schemes to be prioritised: A6 Randalstown/Castledawson ; A6 Derry/Dungiven Phase 1; A5 Western Transport Corridor; A6 Derry/Dungiven Phase 2; Belfast Rapid Transit 2; Lagan Pedestrian and Cycle Bridge; Newry Southern Relief Road; A4 Enniskillen Southern Bypass; A29 Cookstown Bypass. “Work will also continue on the A1 Junctions Phase 2 scheme, to finalise the Business Case and complete the preparation of the contract documents.

In addition, current work streams will also be completed on York Street Interchange and A32 Cornamuck schemes.  “All other schemes will be paused and their place on a future major works programme will be informed by the Department’s emerging transport plans and any decision by a future Infrastructure Minister,” the statement concluded. But following the announcement Mr Harvey said the local bypass project now seems as far away from being delivered as ever. “I’m absolutely disgusted that, once again, the Ballynahinch Bypass has been put well and truly to the bottom of the pile of infrastructure priorities and won’t be progressed at any level moving forward,” he stated. “The people of Ballynahinch have been waiting on this key infrastructure project, quite literally, for generations. Ballynahinch is in gridlock with traffic bumper-to-bumper day in and day out. “The long-awaited bypass would prove to be a real lifeline, not only for local people in the area, but also for visitors, increasing accessibility through to the Mournes and beyond, boosting tourism potential and the local economy. “The lack of strategic vision for this project within the Department has been evident for decades and I am so disappointed that, following this recent letter, we seem to be as far away from a bypass for Ballynahinch as ever before.”

He added that he has written to the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Infrastructure “seeking an urgent meeting” to discuss the issue. “Whilst the Department appear to have given up on Ballynahinch I have not. It’s long since time we got on with the job and built the bypass.”

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