A26 dual-carrigeway funding headache for government

THE challenge to get funding in place to pay for a proposal to turn a section of north Antrim’s busiest road - the A26 - into a dual-carriageway continues to be discussed at central government.

Road-users and commuters in north Antrim have been waiting for years for a firm decision on a start date to turn the part of the A26 - through the famous Frosses Trees - into a dual-carriageway.

Under the proposals the trees - a well-known natural landmark - will stay in place.

But the multi-million pounds scheme continues to give central government a funding headache.

In a letter from Maire Cairns, private secretary to government minister Danny Kennedy, councillors were told that Roads Service is committed to continuing to develop the dualling from Glarryford to the Drones Road turn-off.

The letter said: ‘As you will be aware, a Public Inquiry for the scheme took place in the Tullyglass Hotel on 5-7 November, 2012.

‘The department is currently awaiting the Inspector’s Report to ascertain if any additional work or changes may be necessary to advance the project prior to the Minister making his decision and issuing a Departmental Statement later in the year.

‘At present, Roads Service does not have sufficient funding to commence the construction of this scheme in the current budget period 2011-15.

‘However, the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland 2011-2021, includes the A26 project as part of a £390 million package of high priority strategic road improvements to be funded through alternative finance in the period 2015/16 to 2020/21.

‘The Executive agreed the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland 2011-21 on October 8, 2012. A commitment to fund the revenue consequences of this roads package will be required, and so the timing depends on future resource budgets.

‘In the event of alternative finance not being available, the scheme could be included together with other priority schemes in the bidding process for conventional capital funds in the next Budget period.

‘In the meantime Roads Service will continue to develop the scheme to the point where the Orders can be published and the procurement could commence,’ stated the letter.