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Roads Service carried out a preliminary assessment of the existing directional signage from the A1 at Sprucefield to Belfast International Airport in December 2007. That assessment concluded that new signage via the M1 motorway and the A26 would be appropriate. Roads Service has identified the signs along the A1 and A101 routes that need to be replaced. It is expected that the design, procurement and erection of those replacement signs will be completed by the end of March 2009.
I welcome the Minister’s response. Does he agree that it is important that those gaps are filled as quickly as possible if Belfast International Airport, and our other airports, are to achieve their obvious objective of being regional airports for Northern Ireland as well as serving the border counties of the Republic?
I agree with the Member. The potential for opening up new markets for Belfast International Airport was recognised particularly in relation to the work that was done along the new stretch of the A1 between Belfast and Dublin. That is when the impetus and argument around the need for directional signs at Sprucefield, to the airport, became evident.
As I said in my initial answer, Roads Service has responded. We are considering ways of amending and improving the signage. I have had discussions with the management of Belfast International Airport, and since the commencement of Aer Lingus flights there, passenger numbers have increased and business is continuing to grow. That is good news for the area.
In light of the aforementioned tourism and commercial significance of our airports and harbours — particularly those at Ballywalter, Portavogie and Portaferry, to name but a few, in one beautiful constituency — does the Minister take a uniform approach to the provision of signage in those locations?
Given the increase in traffic coming from the southern side towards Belfast International Airport, some people thought that additional signage was needed. If the Member has a request for signage at any of the places that he mentioned, he can contact me and I will be happy to do what I can.
In his answer to Mr Hamilton’s initial question, the Minister referred to the A26. Does he agree that if that important road, which is the main route from the south to the north coast and the airport, gains extra traffic, the A26 dual carriageway between Moira and Nutts Corner should be upgraded as soon as possible.
It would be nice to have the money to do all those things. The recognition of the need for improved signage at Sprucefield arose because of the significant increase in traffic and the potential for more business for Belfast International Airport. The need for directions to Belfast International Airport was an issue, particularly for people coming from the southern side. That is why the signage was improved.
If the traffic increases to such an extent that it merits another look at the road and its upgrading, the Department will look at that in due course.