A legal challenge against improvements to the A6 in Northern Ireland has been thrown out, with a judge agreeing that appropriate assessments had been carried out and the decision to proceed with the road had been rational and lawful.
The news that improvement work can now proceed for the A6 between Belfast and Derry has been welcomed by the Freight Transport Association as a boost for businesses in the North West and Mid-Ulster.
The legal challenge had claimed that the proper environmental checks had not been done and the decision to proceed had been based on out-of-date surveys.
A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said, “Today’s decision means 18,000 road users and the local community are set to directly benefit as the new dual carriageway will reduce journey times and improve road safety. The scheme is predicted to result in a saving of almost 600 collisions over its 60 year economic life. The ruling has also recognised the care and attention we take, with the statutory environmental bodies, to preserve, protect and develop environmentally sensitive areas under consideration for road development.
“The local construction industry will also see a considerable benefit with this £160million scheme delivering local jobs and investment. The Department has committed to introducing ‘Buy Social’ clauses into this contract which will generate new entrant trainee employment in the form of apprenticeships and graduate jobs. The works will specifically create between 15-20 new paid employment and training opportunities over the construction period.
“Preliminary works on the project have continued to be progressed in accordance with the environmental commitments given and the objective is to complete the scheme in 2021. It is the Department’s intention to commence major construction works on the scheme as soon as possible.”
The road is one of Northern Ireland’s most important arterial routes, as the road runs between its two largest cities and urban areas. Between Randaltown and Derry the road forms part of the E16 European route.
Seamus Leheny, FTA’s Policy Manager for Northern Ireland, said, “This news means work can now commence on upgrading this antiquated piece of the road network, to ensure that another pieceof the A6 jigsaw is completed. Goods will have improved journey time reliability, something that has held back businesses in the affected region in the past and has been proved unattractive to potential inward investment.”
The majority of goods going to and from Derry and the wider north west transit via the A6, since they either originate from the numerous distribution centres in the Greater Belfast area or are exports and imports being shipped via Belfast and Larne ports.
Leheny continued, “After years of lobbying ministers and government officials to proceed with improving the A6, FTA warmly welcomes the decision taken today and looks forward not just to this section’s completion in due course, but to the progression of plans for upgrading several other sections of the A6 to L’Derry.
“An improved A6 will not only assist businesses in the north west to send and receive goods faster and cheaper, but it will also help attract inward investment to the region, as the ability to transport goods to market efficiently is a key criterion for any company considering investing in a new location. We look forward to the improvement works taking place swiftly and efficiently, to ensure that freight can move freely across the region and keep our businesses trading.”