Department’s refusal to prioritise A1 safety measures are ‘utterly depressing’

A Stormont department’s refusal to prioritise safety measures on a “death trap” carriageway has been criticised as “utterly depressing”.
Cllr Kate MurphyCllr Kate Murphy
Cllr Kate Murphy

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) had made a plea in November to the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to seek a priority status for the A1 due to delays since 2021.

Councillors had urged DfI to engage immediate upgrades as the road has claimed numerous lives over many years in fatal vehicle crashes.

DfI deputy secretary, Colin Woods response letter to the council, read: “At the heart of this issue, is what can be done on the basis of funding levels that are not sufficient to meet all of the demands and requirements, which the department faces.

“A combination of factors has changed the landscape considerably, meaning delivery of the major roads programme as previously set out is no longer sustainable nor appropriate.”

The department has identified four ‘Executive Flagship’ projects that would continue to gain priority through ring-fenced money including, the A5 and A6 dual carriageways.

The secretary added that safety measures on the A1 Newry to Sprucefield could be delivered in parts, but would require new future funding to be confirmed.

Crotlieve SDLP rep Declan McAteer previously outlined his concerns to members, saying: “We are living in the dark ages up here, it’s a dual carriageway that is a death trap.”

The safety measures on the A1 would see the closing of 100 road gaps in central reservations and the creation of separated junctions on the road.

In chambers this week, Sinn Fein Crotlieve cllr, Kate Murphy responded: “Budget constraints are affecting every aspect of delivery on key projects.

“The scheme to upgrade the A1 has been well documented.

“In 2021, officials indicated that with 18 months of procurement and three years of construction, it could take approximately five years following a commitment to proceed with the scheme for the upgrade to be fully delivered.

“We are now fully two years down the line with no progression, this is a matter of public safety.

“The correspondence we have had from DfI is utterly depressing and a stark reminder that the absence of an Executive is really reprehensible at this stage, when this is the outcome for the people we represent.”