Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has today (Thursday) announced that the A1 Junctions Phase 2 road improvement scheme will progress.
The Minister has carefully considered and accepted the outcome of the Public Inquiry and has confirmed progression of the scheme in readiness of funding becoming available.
Making the announcement in a statement to the Assembly today, Minister Mallon said: “I am delighted to announce this key step in the development of the A1 Junctions Phase 2 scheme, which aims to address safety issues along a 25km stretch of the A1 between Hillsborough and Loughbrickland.
“I am very aware of how important the A1 improvements are for the many people who have expressed their support for the scheme, especially to all those who have lost loved ones.
“Progressing a scheme of this scale represents significant investment in this strategic road which links Belfast and Dublin and carries around 40,000 vehicles per day.
“The provision of the upgrade will greatly improve road safety for all of these motorists as well as providing more reliable journey times for the thousands of travellers using the route daily.
“My announcement to proceed with the scheme also delivers on promises made to our citizens in the New Decade, New Approach agreement, to improve connectivity and safety on this strategically important transport corridor for our island, helping to improve the lives of all our citizens.”
A Public Inquiry was held in March 2020 into the proposed scheme and the Inspector reported his findings to the Department in October 2020.
Following an examination of the issues raised, the Minister has accepted the Inspector’s recommendations and has confirmed the scheme should progress, subject to completing all of the necessary statutory processes and securing the necessary funding.
The Department will now publish the formal “Environmental Impact Assessment: Notice to Proceed” and will make the Direction Order and the Stopping Up (of Private Accesses) Order for the scheme.
Consultation will continue with key stakeholders particularly landowners affected by the scheme proposals to minimise any related impacts.
Welcoming the news, SDLP MLA, Dolores Kelly, commented: “While other Ministers neglect their commitments under New Decade, New Approach, Nichola Mallon has stepped up and is making progress on the issues that matter to people. Minister Mallon is taking decisions to enhance connectivity across this island and improve lives.”
“The improvement scheme, stretching 25km between Hillsborough and Loughbrickland, will improve travel time and conditions and crucially, road safety. Approximately 40,000 people travel this road on a daily basis and they will be delighted to learn of this significant investment and upgrade.”
“The A1 road improvement scheme is welcome news and as it announced today, we are mindful of the families who have lost loved ones on this road.”
“Once again, Minister Mallon has proven she is committed to delivering on the issues that matter to people in their everyday lives.”
Alliance Councillor Brian Pope the announcement was great news but that it must now be “a funding priority for the Department of Infrastructure”.
The Council’s chair of the Economic Development and Regeneration committee, said: “This is vital because of the history of fatal and serious collisions and urgency in addressing the long running road safety concerns on this dangerous road.
“After many years in the planning, local campaigners will be pleased and somewhat relieved to hear that this roads scheme has finally been given the go-ahead.
“I want to acknowledge and thank all those who contributed to and attended the Public Inquiry last year, which helped push this project forward.
“The scheme’s business case and procurement process should now be progressed without delay.
“Installing temporary road safety measures on the A1 should also be seriously considered in the interim, but today’s decision is a significant step forward.”
Sinn Fein MLA, Liz Kimmins, added: “This is an issue I have repeatedly raised to the Department for Infrastructure and the minister.
“The A1 is one of the most dangerous roads on our island and we need to see the necessary safety improvements delivered as soon as possible.
“Now, the minister needs to prioritise funding for this project and ensure no stone is left unturned to deliver it.
“We have been waiting far too long for a scheme which is crucial to making one of Ireland’s most dangerous roads safer, should help save lives and prevent further tragedy on this road.”