The announcement of an extra £400m infrastructure funding for Northern Ireland as part of the Government’s deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) represents a great opportunity to upgrade the strategic road network, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
The agreement specifically referenced Belfast’s York Street Interchange – a £165m redevelopment project on which FTA has spent years lobbying local politicians.
Currently, the junction is a serious bottleneck, delaying freight journeys to Belfast city centre and the port.
FTA says work must start as soon as possible and is confident that the additional money will ease the financial burden of the scheme, bringing forward the start date for works to commence.
Seamus Leheny, FTA policy and membership manager for Northern Ireland, said: “FTA was the only transport body to give evidence to the 2015 Public Inquiry in favour of the York Street Interchange scheme and has consistently lobbied politicians to support redevelopment of the interchange.
“The additional investment will be a huge boost at a time of great uncertainty for the freight industry. Upgrades are needed to much of Northern Ireland’s strategic road network to improve journey times and deliver economic and social benefits. This money has the potential to make a real impact on the Northern Irish economy, and our trading relationships with the Great Britain and the rest of Europe.”
The York Street Interchange redevelopment is expected to take three years and FTA has already engaged with TransportNI to assist in planning a temporary traffic management strategy to be implemented while the work is taking place.
Leheny said: “This scheme has been hampered by many delays over the years so FTA hopes yesterday’s announcement means work will get underway imminently. The improvements will benefit the whole community, reducing congestion and making journeys easier.
“Investment in Northern Ireland’s strategic road network is crucial to support industry, attract inward investment and facilitate growth. With Brexit negotiations underway and uncertainty over the Irish border, this is good news for the freight industry.”