Campaigners for safety improvements on the notorious A1 say they are not prepared to simply ‘wait and see’ as a continued Stormont stalemate threatens to bring further heartache the longer inaction prevails.
They say the lack of a minister in charge could seriously impede progress on promised works to close up all of the central reservation crossings along the carriageway.
It was revealed that a total of 21 crossing points will be ‘stopped up’ and a central safety barrier put in place.
The pre-Christmas confirmation was welcomed by the campaigners behind the ‘A1: How Many Must Die?’ lobby group and petition, which over 10,000 people signed, forcing a government response.
But a lack of ministerial leadership, they fear, will mean that the scheme could remain in limbo for some time.
Monica Heaney, whose 27-year-old son Karl (main image) died after a collision on the A1 in May, is among those to voice anger and frustration that no movement can yet be seen on the horizon.
It was reported in December that ministerial approval would be required for the release of funds for the project to move to construction.
But Monica said they are not prepared to wait that long.
She explained: “Since the start of January we have been focusing on looking into the impact of the stalemate in Stormont and how it could potentially affect the progress of the A1, especially considering it is astoundingly coming close to the second anniversary of the collapse of the Executive.
“We emailed the Department of Infrastructure for clarification on whether ministerial approval is required for completion of the proposed works.”
The response did not instil confidence….
It read: “We would like to reassure you that funding is in place for the development work relating to the A1 junction phase 2 project. This work involves the completion of the design and preparing an environmental impact assessment report in preparation for taking the proposal through the statutory procedures which will likely include a public inquiry.
“Progression to construction remains subject to clearing the statutory procedures and funding being made available to the department. The current development phase is anticipated to extend to 2020 and does not require ministerial approval.
“The decision to proceed to construction would normally be taken by a minister, and if there is a continued absence of ministers the department will consider the position in accordance with the powers available to them at that time.”
Monica said the correspondence had caused them concern.
She added: “Looking at the current stalemate and the very little effort or progress in this area, we are not willing to just wait and see and then have to cross that bridge when we get to it.
“We have been told the completion of the A1 could take a number of years to complete.
“If a lack of government affects the construction phase being approved, we could be facing longer delays placing more lives at risk.
“We want to be proactive in making sure this development progresses without delay.
“We understand the Department of Infrastructure have no control over these issues, so our next step is to contact the Secretary of State Karen Bradley and ask her about what measures are in place to deal with this issue and what is being done now to end this current situation.”