by Ciara Maguire
A NEW billboard campaign has been launched this week demanding that there are no further delays to the A5 western Transport Corridor (A5WTC) scheme.
It has been launched by Sinn Féin and sees a number of billboards strategically placed along the road’s route through West Tyrone.
Party elected representatives in the constituency gathered at the launch at the Newtownstewart by-pass on Friday afternoon.
Work was due to begin earlier this year on the first phase between Newbuildings and Strabane, but was put on hold because of the judicial review.
The fresh legal challenge has been mounted by a group made up of landowners, farmers and supporters living along the proposed route – collectively termed the Alternative A5 Alliance (AA5A) – who are opposed to the scheme.
In recent weeks it has been confirmed that the court challenge has been adjourned until October 12.
Speaking at Friday’s launch, West Tyrone MP., Órfhlaith Begley said, the scheme must proceed following further recent tragedies on the road.
“The siting of these billboards along the A5 route in West Tyrone is as part of the campaign demanding that there be no further delay in the commencement of the A5,” she said.
“The vital need for the A5 dual-carriageway to proceed as planned has been so tragically reinforced by the heartrending scenes of carnage we have once again witnessed on the road in recent weeks. Too many lives have already been unnecessarily lost because of delays in the upgrade and further tragedy could be avoided if the A5 dual carriageway was allowed to proceed as planned.
“The vast majority of people in this area want to see the necessary improvements to the A5 happen as quickly as possible and are frustrated by the repeated delays as a result of unrepresentative legal challenges.”
Ms Begley is also seeking a meeting with the scheme’s opponents, adding: “In light of the need for urgent action to progress this work I am seeking an urgent meeting with those challenging this project through the courts and will urge them to find alternative ways to voice their opposition without delaying the necessary improvements to the road.
“I am appealing to the Alternative A5 Alliance to end its blocking tactics and to withdraw its legal challenge.
“On the basis of road safety alone, the A5 dual-carriageway is long-overdue as well as being essential to tackling historic infrastructure imbalance and socio-economic neglect in this part of Ireland.”
Local councillor, Patsy Kelly, has also called for the AA5A to withdraw their legal challenge.
The Derry City and Strabane district councillor said: “I think it’s time that those who are stalling this much-needed project have a re-think. They must be challenged and held to account for this. The longer this scheme is delayed, the more lives are being lost.
“They must listen to the opinions of the people and those are loud and clear; people want and need to see this project progress. How many more lives are going to be lost on the A5 before the new road is delivered.
“It’s time for the people of the West to stand up against the objectors and tell them that this road must go ahead.”