Terror in Tyrone – White Elephant Alert.

Recently there have reports of a large white elephant surveying the landscape across a large swathe of the centre of Tyrone, it is believed the creature has strong intentions of making its presence a permanent feature of this region. It is accepted that some of the local residents would openly welcome such a prestigious neighbour and others, who have escaped any direct contact to date, seemed little concerned by its presence. However an increasing number have been dismayed by the havoc and destruction it will leave in its wake and in recent times the more astute are starting to ask how can we afford to accommodate and maintain this monster?

The creature currently goes under the catchy name of “The A5 Western Transport Corridor” and requires a completely new high-grade dual-carriageway (a motorway in all but name). Starting at Aughnacloy on the Monaghan border, it slices its way through virgin countryside to join up with other schemes at Newbuildings, on the edge of Londonderry/Derry, and branches across into Letterkenny and East Donegal. With a total length of 55 miles it will be the longest single road project ever undertaken in Northern Ireland.

Originally it was reported that “A5” would be a most generous gift from the “Celtic Tiger Maharaja”, to celebrate our small kingdoms emergence from many years of strife, it was also intended to strengthen friendships across our common frontier, bringing greater prosperity to one and all. The gift as promised amounts to some £400million, and the Tribal Princes assembled at Stormont said it should be received with the utmost gratitude by the citzens of this land, indeed to date Minister Murphy has hosted and attended several parties to express his heartfelt thanks. In spite of this, in a spirit of ingratitude, some have suggested that since the time the original magnificent offer was made the “Celtic Tiger” has been having some financial woes of its own and as a result the size of the gift might be in some doubt, however strong assurances have been given that the gift is safely protected from those who seek to plunder the Maharajah’s coffers and he assures us it will not be used to cover any of his substancial debts.

According to the vast wisdom of the volumes of Wikipedia “A white elephant is an idiom for a valuable possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.” not a very flattering discription but sadly it would seem that on many levels it is an extremely fitting discription of the A5. Ahh but I hear you argue that the A5 will be a extremely hard working component in bringing prosperity to the poorly neglected West, bringing industry and tourism to those needy communities, however as we look closer at the figures the whole scheme does not stack up on many levels.

Currently the southern section of the A5 carries about 6000 vehicles per day between Augnacloy and Ballygawley, it has just had over £5 million spent on a realignment as part of the A4 upgrade scheme, ironically at Ballygawley roundabout the A4 going west to Enniskillen carries almost 8000 vehicles per day through narrow village streets, but there is no talk of a dual-carriageway or even by-passes there, despite the heavier levels of traffic. At present I am unaware of the traffic levels required to justify a Motorway, I would be bold enough to suggest that it would be several multiples of 6000 at least.

There are many other considerations as to why this scheme is unnecessary, environmental, archaeological, commercial ( few of the Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Newtownstewart, or even Omagh & Strabane traders wish to see the passing trade taken out of their catchment areas), communities will be divided, farms destroyed, major disruption with noise, dust and visual poloution throughout the construction years, all this to save about 15 minutes of journey time. Finally of course there is the small matter or cost… before I go further it would be wrong to suggest that the investment of that type of money in Tyrone would not provide much needed jobs and investment in the areas affected, (brings to mind the famine roads that went nowhere but provided employment) however if that level of investment was put into the general roads system of Tyrone it would be much more welcome, boosting the economy across the whole county, not shoving the traffic through it as fast as possible and taking it out of the area. As for the road safety argument the streches being replaced are by no means safe, but neither are they notorious death traps like the A4 currently being upgraded, even a fraction of this investment more evenly spread out would probably save many more lives.

So lets get down to the nitty gritty, the new A5 is a gift and wont cost us anything, right? Wrong, firstly the £400 million is also to go towards the new A8 Larne Upgrade, being a smaller scheme lets allocate it 15% of the budget, that leaves us with £340 million, and the current cost of the scheme? Most recent announcements have estimated it at £850 million! That’s over half a BILLION that has to be found by the NI Executive, for what? A road that isn’t needed and cannot be justified. So why is this being forced through at lightning speed? You tell me, because it makes no sense here locally and I am sure there are one or two other projects where that sort of cash could make a real difference.

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  • joeCanuck

    Having travelled that route many many times during my life, I can tell you that it was an awful drive, going through Strabane, Newtownstewart, and Omagh. It has been greatly improved over the past 20 years with bypasses and isn’t bad now. I agree that the total upgrade is unneccesary but another bypass, at Sion Mills for example, would be money well spent.

  • joeCanuck

    Bready too; awfully dangerous left hand bend there.(Right hand if you’re going north.)

  • Drumlins Rock

    fully agree joe that upgrades are needed on many sections, but at fraction of the cost and disruption this scheme entails.

  • Mark McGregor

    Are you stupid or something? This is about elections in Derry and you farmers/rurals can suck it up while SF fight for votes that are grouped not spread.

    Suck it up – Martina has an incumbent to beat and by god Connor will car-park the world with more ease than supporting a bomb if that gets the votes she is bleating for.

  • The Original Sam Maguire

    Good lad Conor Murphy – keep ‘er lit.

  • Drumlins Rock

    £200,000 per vote needed to win Foyle, hope Martina is grateful!

  • The Raven

    Sure what are you blethering about? PPS21 came into effect yesterday; now every single application in the country that had “opinion” proferred on it will go back in the system, the appeals will start, and suddenly those little “blank spaces” in linear developments will start to grow bigger, as the developers slowly return to claim the green space.

    This region is slowly turning into a car-park. Once it’s built on, it’s gone forever. I don’t know why we don’t just turn it all over now, for when the “recovery” begins.

  • Ulick

    How many cars travel Ballygawley to Omagh every day? How many people do you estimate will use the new road for travelling to Derry instead of the M2 via Belfast? Will the new road make it easier for firms in Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh to get their wares to Dublin port? Will ambulances be able to get to hospitals quicker? How many lives do you think will be saved from prevented road traffic accidents over, say 10 years?

    The west has be neglected long enough, quit whinging.

  • Drumlins Rock

    probably somewhere around 8000, per day, about one car every 4 seconds at peak times i guess, not high. I would think very few will change routes, espically if the A6 upgrade happens. It will take 15 min of their journey to the port from derry, will be of no use whatsoever to Fermanagh and 3/4 of tyrone. It will shorten ambulence times to altnagalvin over the northern section, however the existing upgrade scheme would achieve almost as much. It will be of no benefit to those going to enniskillen or craigavon, using the money for bypasses in the clogher valley is much more vital. As i said if a fraction of the money was used on more notorious blackspots many more lives will be saved over a 10 yr period.
    The west will benefit little from this road apart from the small fraction of the building cost spent in the local areas.

  • Ulick

    The west will benefit greatly from the projec for exactly the reasons I hinted at in my questions and that doesn’t even go into the likes of cancer sufferers in Donegal who have to do round trips to Dublin for treatment.All I can say is thank God we don’t have a unionist minister responsible for roads.

  • Actually, that is the best route from Derry to Craigavon. It is also the best route from Belfast to Omagh.

    I suspect that a large part of the reasoning for this project is to increase traffic in the area, the same reason that large sums of money have been spent on roads in Connacht in recent years. Transport is key to economic growth.

    And I agree, the A4, A6 and A26 also need upgrading, but Dublin money isn’t on offer for them. Take what you can get.

  • it’s difficult to argue with a quantitive post such as Drumlins to be honest.

  • Sean Og

    I think the new A5 upgrade is long overdue. The bottom line is that the current road cant handle the volume of traffic. The amount of people killed on the road alone is clear evidence that drastic changes are required. A couple of local angry farmers have suggested that the new road is ‘Overkill’ – how apt that they use this description. Its interesting to see how Mark has turned this issue into an attacj on Sinn Fein.

  • DR,

    You disingenuously quote a figure of 6000 vehicles per day for the Ballygawley-Aughnacloy portion of the route, but you don’t provide numbers for the rest. I’ve looked up the relevant traffic study here: http://www.a5wtc.com/PrefOptionsReport.aspx and extracted the salient data. I note how you’ve deliberately only quoted the smallest number, which applies to less than 10% of the route length.

    Border – Aughnacloy 7627
    Aughnacloy – Ballygawley 6508
    Ballygawley – Gortaclare 9887
    Gortaclare – Omagh 10262
    Omagh – N’stewart 11498
    N’stewart – Strabana 12042
    Strabane – Bready 11110
    Bready – Derry 11154

    The average for the entire route north of Ballygawley is well over 10000.

  • Cynic

    This is all academic. The Irish don’t have £400m and we don’t have £500m and Conor colleague Michelle just blew £60m on a fine to the EU

  • Mrazik

    I had a good chuckle when I saw the proposed route of the A5 and was wetting myself in particular when I saw that the road will bypass the bypass built to bypass the village of Newtownstewart. We sure know how to spend other peoples money here.

  • Jean Meslier

    Terror in Tyrone – White Elephant Alert.
    If it had sprouting a mane(?) of red hair, I’d have said it was Benny Coulter on his way to Clones looking for Micky Harte’s head!!!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    DR,

    Excellent Post. I think we all know this elephant’s colours are green, white and orange and much as I like the sound of such a road that integrates Ulster further with the other 3 provinces if the money is not there or is needed elsewhere then it should be scrapped/scaled down.

    I dont know what the figures are for the M4 from Dublin to Mullingar but any time I have travelled on it I had a distinct feeling of agrophobia and there must be at least be the suspicion that when the other metaphorical beast, the Celtic Tiger, got itself a few bob, they decided that great big roads were the best way to show it off.

  • drumlins rock

    Raven, there are still many virtually unspoilt areas off the beaten track in tyrone, unfortunately the A5 planners have deliberately targeted these areas to avoid demolishing homes.

  • drumlins rock

    I tried to avoid the Tribal arguments, although I guess it is the usual “elephant in the room” (i know too many metaphors!) I have even heard the complaint that it is a deliberate attempt to destroy protestant farms, bit far fetched I know, although those worst affected are disproportionately protestant I believe.

  • Ardmhacha

    I thought the post was about Eoghain Mulligan?

  • drumlins rock

    Andrew, is 10,000 VPD sufficient to justify a motorway? also how much of that traffic is local and would continue to use the existing road? I would estimate around 20%

  • Ok, DR, selectively ignoring some numbers and choosing others was one thing but you are now fully into pink elephant territory.

  • foreign correspondent

    The thing is this dual carriageway will partly connect the biggest city on the island with the fourth biggest. They’re building a motorway between Dublin and Waterford, which is much smaller than Derry. The northwest, ie Derry and Donegal, need better infrastructure and this would be a help, I think.

  • David Cather

    Absolute rubbish this and the ongoing upgrade of the road between the end of the motorway and Ballygally aren’t just necessary it’s about 4 decades late. It is a disgrace that we don’t have proper roads out west, these projects will go a long way to fixing that.

    ” “The A5 Western Transport Corridor” and requires a completely new high-grade dual-carriageway (a motorway in all but name).”

    Excellent a motorway is what we’ve been crying out for.

    “However an increasing number have been dismayed by the havoc and destruction it will leave in its wake ”

    Give me strength, if you want to see someone causing havoc and destruction put one 45 mile an hour driver on the current road and then watch the chaos as a vast snake-like creature develops behind them and maniacs try to over take on the bends. (THERE’S A REASON WHY IT’S THE MOST DEADLY ROAD IN THE COUNTRY!) And don’t even mention the stupid over taking lanes along the route because the 45 mph driver will speed up when she gets onto these in an almost deliberate effort to stop people getting past.

  • Odhran Moses

    It’s all been downhill transport infrastructure wise since Benson 1962 and the then Government’s eager isolation of the west by closing down the railyways.
    Use the money to upgrade/re-open the railways across Ireland.
    In civilised countries of a similar size in Europe you can travel anywhere in about 2hours on the train.

  • drumlins rock

    hey didnt say I agreed with it! just saying wht I have heard, however whatever the intentions were the impact on the protestant community will much greater, and have heard several families talk of emigrating if it goes ahead.

  • Ah, come on. Nudge nudge wink wink.

  • I intentionally left out the numbers for suburban Omagh, which were as high as 16000, because they were likely to be skewed by local traffic. The rest of the survey points appear to be well in the heart of the countryside according to the maps in the report. I don’t know where you’re getting the 20% number from.

  • Freya

    ” the 45 mph driver will speed up when she gets onto these in an almost deliberate effort to stop people getting past. ”

    On my route such drivers are invariably male David.

  • David Cather

    We were promised a motorway to Omagh when they closed the railways!

  • drumlins rock

    suppose its their own fault for stealing all the good land at the plantation?

  • No – do you seriously believe that a road scheme would (or even could) be used as a pretext to selectively move farmers off their land based on their religion? You’re hinting at it and pretending you aren’t.

    I don’t like those emoticon things, but I’ve one in mind that seems to be really appliable on slugger:

    /o\ [good grief – head in hands slumped on table]

  • Drumlins, you make a fair enough assessment regarding the funds, which I think could well threaten the project, although I’d like to see links to those latest estimations. But I don’t agree with your argument that it is unnecessary, to argue it is uncommercial for traders in towns is just bewildering.

    To be fair the A5 will cut through a lot of farmland, but I’ve spoken to a lot of these farmers and although their concerns for the most part come from genuine grievances, I don’t agree with their assessment of the “devastation” the new road will have.

    The farmers are I agree, from primarily large 5th generation protestant farms. But you are opening pandora’s box if you want to start debating why so few Catholic farmers run these massive farms. I believe the farmers are overstating the impact the road will have.

    They argue for the upgrade of the existing A5, which just isn’t feasible considering the number of properties along the road. That would have a much greater social impact, actually demolishing homes.

    From what I understand the new road will facilitate farmers via underpass tunnels for cattle etc. If you’ve ever has the misfortune of using the A4 or A5 you’d probably know what it is to sit behind these farmers with dozens of cars behind on the main Derry to Dublin route!

    Yes the M1 was originally intended to extend to Derry to replace the railways until the money ran out, but that was only one instance in the infrastructural neglect west of the Bann.

    ‘Terror in Tyrone’ is hardly justified either. The vast majority of people down here are in favour of the project.

    The A4 in particular is one of the worst roads in the north and claims lives every year without fail. It is not just about the volume of traffic (which you have been selective with), but the nature of the traffic. A major road network should not have to carry both agricultural vehicles and thousands of commuting vehicles together.

  • drumlins rock

    Aldous, know I should have stuck to the main post and kept religion out of it, and the comments above are more tongue in cheek. however it is the way some people are talking round here. Know many of the farmers affected, and they are genuinely gutted by it all, in several cases the aomunt of ground lost will leave the farm unviable, these arent particularly large farms,
    The A4 upgrade was a completely different matter as virually everyone accepted it was needed and many upgrades still are needed as it goes west to fermanagh, but if this scheme eats up so much finacnce how will these ever occur?
    The neglect of the west was terrible and prob worse than you say, I dont think they ever seriously considered motorways west of the Bann, check out wesley johnstons excellent website. http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads/historymotorwayplans.html

  • drumlins rock

    sorry Al, forgot to post the link for the costing shttp://roadimprovements.roadsni.gov.uk/index/schemes.htm

  • Mick Fealty

    Can I just put in a request for more infrastructure stories. This is the most engaging thread I’ve seen on Slugger for some time.

  • drumlins rock

    why thank-you Mick, its probably another one of those cases of discussions on slugger far outweighing the discussion in the executive

  • drumlins rock

    back in 2000 the then DRD minister Gregory Campbell tol the assembly “The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has concluded that a typical single carriageway trunk road will operate satisfactorily with only occasional peak period congestion with a traffic flow of up to approximately 18,000 vehicles per day.” none of them ever come close.

  • Mrazik

    Ever heard of Craigavon, David? It was promised also.

  • dantheman
  • The Raven

    Oh wait! Isn’t this the point where someone from Derry raises the University thing?

    Isn’t it…??

  • kevin talor

    Kill your speed not yourself is the answer to the carnage on our roads not bigger roads

  • EM

    If the case is being made in DR’s article, and in other forums, that the A5 does not need upgraded due to the lack of traffic volumes, then, while we all get misty eyed about trains, there would most definitely not be the number of passengers using them to sustain re-opening the railway from Portadown to Derry/L’Derry – there are currently 400 passengers per day using the bus network from Belfast to Omagh – 3000 per day are required to make a train service viable. And despite how much people would like to see the re-introduction of the trains, I suspect very few would actually get out of their cars to use it on a regular basis. There are currently a large number of people who travel to Belfast to work every day – what percentage of them drive to Portadown and take the train into Belfast?
    There is also the issue of the cost of providing a train network. I note the Alternative A5 Alliance has removed from their website their estimated costs of providing the alternative to the A5 dualling – since it indicated that it would cost the same as the A5 dualling (NOT including their proposals to provide 2+1’s on the existing A5).
    One must also consider where the railway is to be built – if the stations are to be in the town centres then a lot of land will be required for that and associated carparking – the disruption will be considerable both during construction and for the businesses that will have to be re-located. The plans to use the old railway line seems to ignore the fact that quite a large portion of it is developed either with roads – Omagh Throughpass, Strabane Bypass – or houses, or has been removed by farmers to incorporate the land into their fields. If the stations are going to be outside town centres then where are they to be sited except on farm land – if farmers are opposed to the A5 dualling, why would they be any more receptive to a railway which would also sever their farms?

  • EM

    11,000 vehicles per day are required to justify a dual carriageway.
    it is very difficult to say that X% will continue to use the existing road. Travel movments are very dynamic and will depend on the time of day/year, where the person joins the existing network and personal preferences. For example during the summer when farmers are cutting sileage and using the existing A5 then alot more people may well divert to the dualling as their journey times will be easier to predict, but someone travelling early in the morning may well stay on the existing A5 as there will be little traffic to slow them down.

  • sean og

    Honourable sentiment Kevin, but unfortunately speed is not the only killer on the road.

  • Yes the White Elephant in the article is either Eoghain Mulligan, or maybe it is climate change? Does anyone think of the wider issue here?
    A motorway means more cars bleaching out carbon and less trees sucking it back in because they are buried under the asphalt.

    The ground that the motorway is set to go over is soft, meaning the concrete to stabliize it (so that it doesn’t subside) will have to go very deep. Because of this I think your talking about a project costing over a billion.

    And by the time it is built, the price of fuel will be so high that only the odd bus and 4X4 will be seen on it.

    The Tyrone Ghost Road…

  • Informed

    “I note the Alternative A5 Alliance has removed from their website their estimated costs of providing the alternative to the A5 dualling – since it indicated that it would cost the same as the A5 dualling (NOT including their proposals to provide 2+1′s on the existing A5).”

    That’s a lie – investing in Rail plus an upgrade of the A5 would amount to around half the cost of the proposed A5 dual carriageway scheme.

  • Niall

    The M1 when originally built, should have went at least as far as Omagh. It didn’t. The A5 upgrade merely rectifies this. Its just a shame that its taken SO long for the infastructure in Tyrone to be improved, its been a disgrace for far too long now.

    England is covered in A roads that are far superior to the M1. I can drive from Nottingham to Liverpool (87 miles) faster than from Craigavon to Omagh (47 miles). Thats just not on. We’re owed, just like places like Mansfield, Chesterfield etc in England. We’re owed a big wack of money to get our infastructure in line with Scotland, Wales, England and the Republic. And that should come via an increase to the block grant from Westminster.

    And I won’t accept that Omagh/Strabane/Derry link to the east is unjustified. Not everyone venturing out of the sticks is on their way to Mecca, I mean Belfast.

    Depriving Omagh of a hospital alone is justification.

    And the Ballygawley to Enniskillen route should get exactly the same treatment before any consideration of a Belfast light transport system is thought of.

    Nottingham got such a system 5 years ago. It costs £3 for a day ticket (off peak). Peak travel during rush hour is £2.70 one way.Problem is there is NO rush hour, the trams are empty during hours in which people are apparently going to work – reason being? The City (same size as Belfast) is not big enough to justify the system and therefore pirces must be kept high which in turn deters potential users.

    Belfast’s bus network is sufficient. The Eniskillen route a joke. Priorities for all development should focus on those areas most neglected, that being Tyrone and Fermanagh.

    Compare these areas with any in the rest of the UK of Ireland. Its not a question of not having enough money to go about, not when you see wealthy Southern English coucils having their grant cut by as little as 5% while Northern Ireland, one of the most deprived areas of the UK gets its slashed, along with non-Tory, Northern English counties.

    The money is there, we’re just not getting enough of it – so I say built all around us and stick the collcection plate out to Westmister, the Dail and Brussels and bleed them for all they are worth, because the state of our roads, train network and airports (e.g. City runway) are a complete JOKE and have been left a laughing stock for far too long.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Niall, obviously I’m not against DRD spending £650 odd million in Tyrone, but I can think of dozens of schemes you could do for that money that would save many more lives, reduce journey times, improve the economy and have much less impact on the environment, £5 million on my own road here could almost achieve as much.

  • Niall

    Drumlins Rock, thats the point though. There are dozens of schemes that do require funding. Look at the Republic, look at their infastructure, each one of their lovely new roads financed by the EU. Yet NI is part of the UK so has any EU funds directed through Westminster who prioritse London and Southern England which do not need ANY support.

    NI is an economically deprived community to the same extent as Glasgow, Liverpool or Hull. Yet for example, Kent Council gets its grant cut by 5%, Nottinghamshire gets its cut 33%. Kent being one of the most affluent areas of England, Nottinghamshire one of the most deprived. That is not equitable. Even a fair, uniform cut would mean more for NI.

    If NI were an independant state we would qualify for a huge handout from Brussels, we need and deserve that help to get our infastructure and hospitals to the same standard as any other Western European state, never mind attaining the dizzing heights of wealth and transport systems enjoyed across England.

    First things first though is to redress the imbalance that has unti now been seen by areas to the west of the bann, the A5 restructure is needed. Look afer the most deprived first, that NI within the UK and thats Tyrone/Fermanagh within NI.