Minister welcomes A8 scheme jobs boost

Mark Weatherup with Minister Danny Kennedy. Pic by Michael Cooper
Mark Weatherup with Minister Danny Kennedy. Pic by Michael Cooper

A local university graduate is among those who have benefitted from new jobs created by the A8 dual carriageway project.

Mark Weatherup, a 23-year-old former pupil of Ballyclare High School, graduated from Queen’s University in July with a masters degree in civil engineering.

He applied online earlier this year for a job with Lagan Construction, the company responsible for the earthworks along the route of the new road development.

“I applied for the job in January, I went for the interview in April and I was pretty much offered the job the next day,” explained Mark, who lives near Straid.

The graduate engineer has been busy surveying the land for the new 14km stretch of road, under the watchful eye of a more experienced colleague.

“It’s been really good so far. I’ve been in the job for two months now and it was good over the summer, but I’ll have to wait and see what it’s like in the winter when it gets colder and wetter,” he said.

Mark said that out of the 40 people in his class at Queen’s, most have secured jobs, some of them abroad, while others are going on to do other courses.

The A8 widening project between Coleman’s Corner and Ballyrickard near Larne has helped create hundreds of new jobs, according to Transport Minister Danny Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy, who visited the site last week, commented: “Upgrading the A8 to dual carriageway will help grow the local economy and contribute to wider economic development across Northern Ireland.

“The construction industry is vital to this growth and I am determined to ensure that local firms are given every opportunity to gain experience and employment through projects such as this major improvement scheme.

“In addition to the hundreds of construction jobs this scheme has already provided, I am impressed that the contractor, Lagan Ferrovial Costain, has recruited three people who were on the unemployment register, employed seven placement students, four apprentices, and has also provided 257 ‘Steps to Work’ placement weeks.”

During his visit to review progress on the multi-million pound project, which started 13 months ago, the Minister revealed that the works remain on schedule.

“Progress on the improvement scheme is impressive and it is on schedule to be complete and open to traffic by Spring 2015,” he said.

“With over 80 per cent of the pipe culverts and other utility diversions complete, works are progressing well on the key structures and bulk earthworks activities.”

The scheme, which is part funded by the European Commission under its Trans-European Transport Network funding, will incorporate a new roundabout at Shane’s Hill Road, and a number of new junctions and bridges.

Advanced archaeological investigation works along the scheme are now complete.

According to the DRD, the only significant find was a 2000BC Neolithic roundhouse settlement near the site of the A57 road junction.