Funding in place for major road projects

Roy Beggs MLA (right) with DRD Minister Danny Kennedy following the announcement that funding is to be made available for the completion of the A2 and A8 road improvement schemes. INNT 07-504CON
Roy Beggs MLA (right) with DRD Minister Danny Kennedy following the announcement that funding is to be made available for the completion of the A2 and A8 road improvement schemes. INNT 07-504CON

LONG-AWAITED upgrade schemes on two of Newtownabbey’s busiest roads could get under way in a matter of months, it has been revealed.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson confirmed this week that almost £500 million is to be invested in the road infrastructure across Northern Ireland over the next four years, meaning the A8 Larne Line and A2 Shore Road dual carriageway projects could soon get the green light.

The Shore Road will be widened at the Greenisland ‘bottleneck’ to form a new four-lane carriageway, while the dualling of the A8 corridor is scheduled to be completed between Bruslee and Millbrook near Larne.

It is thought the A8 project, including the construction of a Ballynure by-pass, could cost up to £120 million. The bill for the A2 scheme is likely to be around £60 million.

“Subject to the outcome of the public inquiries that were held last summer, construction work may begin on the A8 as early as this spring. A procurement competition will be initiated for the A2 Shore Road project, which should see work commencing early in 2013,” Mr Kennedy commented.

It is estimated that the two projects, along with other schemes such as the A5 dual carriageway project between Londonderry and Strabane, have the potential to create around 2,500 jobs over the next four years.

“This investment will provide a significant boost to the local economy and help to encourage inward investment. It will provide job security for many and create much needed jobs in the construction industry. It will also offer opportunities for the long-term unemployed, apprentices and students.

“In the longer term it will serve as a catalyst for wider economic growth. If we want Northern Ireland to prosper we have to construct the infrastructure to enable us to compete effectively,” Mr Kennedy added.

The four-year £490 million finance package busts the budget for roads expenditure, and Mr Wilson is counting on clawing the excess back through departmental underspends.

“I took the view that the construction industry needs an injection right now and we can achieve that by taking on more roads schemes than we have the money for at present,” he said.

News that the Shore Road and Larne Line schemes could progress in the coming months has been welcomed by local political representatives. However, householders and business owners in Ballynure have vowed to continue to push for a rethink over the scale of the A8 project.

For reaction to this news, see this week’s Times. And there will more in next week’s paper...