Transport Minister Michelle McIlveen has officially opened the £133 million A8 dualling scheme between Belfast and Larne.
The Minister said: “The A8 scheme is of significant importance to the economic development of Northern Ireland. It will help grow the local economy and contribute directly to the development of Larne.”
The scheme which represents one of the largest investments in the roads infrastructure in Northern Ireland in recent years, was funded by the Northern Ireland Executive with support from the European Commission and the Government of the Irish Republic.
Michelle McIlveen said: “In just 34 months around 17,000 drivers on average every day are now benefiting from reduced journey time of up to 25%, this is a significant reduction especially for commercial traffic using the port of Larne.”
The A8 forms part of the Eastern Seaboard Key Transport Corridor which is an important link between Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic and Scotland. It also provides a vital link serving the port of Larne.
Recognising the impact the building works has had on the local community, the Minister said: “I would like to thank the families living in the area who have been directly affected by the work needed to deliver the scheme. Our appreciation also goes to businesses, landowners and road users for their patience, understanding and co-operation.
“I can assure everyone involved that they have made an enormously important contribution which has helped us to secure benefits for decades to come.”
Construction of the scheme was by a joint venture of Lagan, Ferrovial and Costain. In addition to over two million working hours generated by the scheme, the contractor recruited five people who were on the unemployment register and provided employment opportunities for a number of students and apprentices. Over 700 ‘Steps to Work’ placement weeks were delivered through their workforce.