Minister to make announcement on A5 safety plans this summer

Chief Superintendent Sam Donaldson and Stormont Infrastructure Minister John O'Dowd -Credit:Rebecca Black/PA Wire
Chief Superintendent Sam Donaldson and Stormont Infrastructure Minister John O'Dowd -Credit:Rebecca Black/PA Wire

Stormont Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd is to make an announcement on plans for the A5 road this summer.

He also indicated that he was considering interim proposals for the route from Co Tyrone to Derry which has seen more than 50 deaths since 2006 while upgrade work was hit by a series of delays and legal challenges.

An additional announcement is to be made around the A1 road from Belfast to the Irish border in the coming weeks. However, the minister also appealed for road users to keep safe and exercise caution.

Read more: A5 crash death funeral hears of loving messages sent by teenage couple who died

Mr O’Dowd was speaking following a meeting with senior police in Belfast.

“There are engineering solutions to a number of our roads, and my department will work our way through those engineering solutions,” he said.

“In terms of upgrades to the A1 and A5, I have to work my way through the planning appeals commission report. I hope to be able to make an announcement later on in the summer in that regard. It’s a very detailed complex report and I want to get it right.

“I am currently examining proposals for increased road safety measures on the A5 ahead of my announcement later on in the summer.

“It is an extremely dangerous stretch of road, the fatalities on it recently are heartbreaking.

“Since coming into office on February 6, four people have lost their lives on that road, and it brings to bear on me the onus and responsibility I have in my post, but I am looking at interim proposals to see how we can bring the presence of road safety more to bear on the road users. Road users are key to this.

“In terms of the A1, I am working my way through a very constrained budget to see what road projects I can continue to develop in the year ahead, and I hope to be in a position to make that announcement in the coming weeks.”

The minister said while he does not have the funds to deliver all the road projects he would like to, it is “too simplistic” to attribute road deaths to the state of the roads, saying instead it is down to road user behaviour.

The meeting at police headquarters came on Wednesday hours after news emerged of another tragedy on the roads.

Connor McNeill, 41, was killed and two children were injured when the car he was driving on the Carnlough Road in Broughshane left the carriageway shortly before 3.30pm on Tuesday.

Some 22 people have died in road collisions in Northern Ireland to date this year.

Mr O’Dowd said: “This meeting today is about saving lives. We have lost far too many lives on our roads this year, 22 people have lost their lives to date.

“And I would make a direct appeal to the public to play their part in saving lives, slow down and pay due care and attention when you’re on the road. Every action you take on the road decides whether you arrive home safe and the other users of the road arrive home safe.

“I can assure everyone that the PSNI and my department will do everything within our power to keep people safe on the roads, but you’re the most important people in this equation.”

Chief Superintendent Sam Donaldson said on average one person a week is dying on Northern Ireland’s roads, which he said was unacceptable.

“First of all condolences to the families of those who not only lost their lives on the A5 but on other roads in Northern Ireland so far this year,” he said.

“22 people have lost their lives on our roads this year, and 71 lost their lives last year.

“The number of lives being lost on our roads is unacceptable by any measure, they are not just a statistic, those are individuals whose families and friendship circles will never be the same again.

“I need people to realise that today. The decisions you take on the road have significant consequences.

“Our messages are very simple – do not drink and drive, slow down, do not get careless, wear a seatbelt and stay off your mobile phone.”

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