A24: Timescale

Oral Answers to Questions — Regional Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 22nd February 2016.

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Photo of Trevor Lunn Trevor Lunn Alliance 2:45 pm, 22nd February 2016

1. Mr Lunn asked the Minister for Regional Development for an update on the timescale for improvements to the A24 road proposed at the Temple and Ballynahinch. (AQO 9682/11-16)

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

Two schemes are being developed for the A24. I am pleased to advise that my Department has invited tenders for the proposed junction improvement scheme on the A24 Carryduff Road at Temple. Construction is expected to commence in spring 2016, subject to the successful completion of the tendering and land acquisition processes.

A public inquiry into the proposed A24 Ballynahinch bypass concluded on 27 January. The inspector will now consider all the evidence and prepare a report, which will normally include synopses of the Department, supporters and objectors' cases, details of related questions and answers, the inspector’s considerations and the inspector’s recommendations. It is likely that, as normal, the completed report will be submitted to the Department for consideration within several months. My officials will then address the inspector’s recommendations and prepare a report for my consideration. Having considered all of the issues, I will decide how the scheme should proceed. The decision will be conveyed in a departmental statement accompanied by the publication of the inspector’s report. Subject to a satisfactory outcome, the notice of intention to proceed and the direction order will also be published. Progression to construction remains subject to the approval of the business case, clearing the statutory procedures and funding being made available to my Department.

Photo of Trevor Lunn Trevor Lunn Alliance

I thank the Minister for what was, effectively, an announcement. It will be very good news for all users of that junction, particularly those who try to turn right from the side roads. In view of the accident history at that point, it is very welcome news indeed. In fact, I can hardly think of a question to ask her. You set out the progression, but when do you expect construction to start? Have you any idea of the timescale?

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for his question. I, too, am very aware of that junction as it borders on my constituency, and I use the route often. I am also aware of the collisions there. All tenders returned by the closing date will be assessed, and the most economically advantageous will be identified. Funding has been set aside for the scheme, and it is hoped that it will commence in the spring.

Photo of Jonathan Craig Jonathan Craig DUP

I welcome what the Minster has said so far about the scheme at the Temple crossroads, which is an extremely dangerous crossroads. My father witnessed a fatal accident at that junction. Will the Minister outline the approximate cost of the scheme? More importantly, what additional features will it have?

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for his question. The cost is estimated to be in the region of £1·25 million. As I said to Mr Lunn, funding has been set aside for the scheme. There will be a four-leg roundabout at the junction, and, in addition to the junction improvement, there will be road realignment, a new footway on the approach from Lisburn, a 34-space park-and-share facility and traffic islands.

Photo of Seán Rogers Seán Rogers Social Democratic and Labour Party

Thank you, Minister, for your answers thus far. I, too, welcome that good news. Can you be specific about when you expect to get the findings from the public inquiry into the Ballynahinch bypass?

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I am hopeful that I will hear about the public inquiry quite soon. I am not clear on whether that will be before purdah. As for the earliest date for construction, it is possible that it could be early 2018. The estimated cost associated with that is around £40 million to £50 million. Again, it is subject to that funding being made available.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

The Minister has confirmed that improving the safety of the junction at the Temple is the key consideration. Can she give me an assurance that the same criteria and consideration will be applied to the Woodgreen junction on the A26 in my constituency? Just 10 days ago, we had another fatality of a young person at that junction. Can we have the same safety provision there?

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for his question. I take this opportunity to express my sympathy and condolences to the family of the young woman who was tragically killed on the A26. You will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the circumstances of that tragedy. However, there has been a review of safety around the A26. That review included an examination of all the collisions that have occurred in the last three years, up to March 2015, for which details are available. Transport NI officials have also met PSNI staff — traffic safety officers — on site to discuss possible engineering and enforcement measures that not only seek to reduce the severity of collisions but should reduce the likelihood of them happening in the first instance. I have been informed that the review is substantially complete and will make a number of recommendations for action along that section of the A26, including at the site of the most recent tragedy.