Go raibh maith agat. I refer you to my previous answer on this issue that was issued to you on 19 September. At this time, the situation remains unchanged. My Department is aware of congestion suffered by commuters using the A1/M1 junction and has a long-term proposal to provide a new road link between the A1 and M1 motorway bypassing Sprucefield.
The proposed scheme, which falls within Transport NI's strategic road improvement programme, will benefit strategic traffic by avoiding delays in the Sprucefield area. The proposed scheme was taken to a preliminary stage of development, which identified two possible route options, but further options will need to be examined. The Executive are currently focused on delivering their capital flagship projects and there is insufficient funding to continue with the development of this scheme. Further development of the scheme will be dependent on the availability of finance through future budgetary statements.
On a more general note, my Department is progressing the development of new transport plans, in line with the new approach to regional transportation. This will set out a long-term programme of investment. Development of these plans will provide an opportunity for all strategic roads across the North, including the upgrade to the M1/A1 link, to be considered for future funding.
I thank the Minister for his answer. I must say that I do not recall asking an identical question in September but, fair enough, it is the same issue. Will he update us on the associated work that may have to go ahead, known as the Knockmore link, which would obviously have a bearing on the overall strategic plan?
In the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan 2015, the Knockmore to Sprucefield link road, known as the M1 Knockmore link, has been identified as a developer-led proposal. This means that it is the responsibility of the developers of adjacent land to deliver the road scheme as part of their development. I understand that Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council is currently considering how the scheme could help to unlock development potential in the west Lisburn area.
The council is aware that the limited capital funding available to my Department is directed towards the maintenance and improvement of the strategic road network and it is highly unlikely that any financial contribution that can be made towards the scheme can be justified at this time. Currently, when compared to the demand for other major road schemes, it is not a priority. It is an issue on which I have had discussions with local representatives. I understand its importance to the local area but, as I have laid out, I believe that there is scope for progress on that, and that scope will be in relation to developers and the local council.
I am not aware of any commitment. Certainly, it is not something that I have addressed since coming into post. So, as far as I am aware, it is not a change of direction. I certainly have not given any instruction to change direction. Succinctly; I am not aware of any previous direction on that.