£16 million wasted, Hidden cost of A5.

Peter Welcoming the A5 Final Route

As reported on the BBC this morning, and hi-light by Roy Beggs East Antrim MLA two weeks ago, Conor Murphy has written off £16 million spent on a scheme up-grading the A2 at Greenisland, in order to fund his politically motivated A5 white elephant in Tyrone.

It is a bit strange for a Tyrone man like myself to be putting the case for an infrastructure development in Greater Belfast in preference to one in Tyrone, but the Scot’s ancestry in me over-rides in this case, when I see wastage and disruption on this scale and knowing that it is just the tip of the A5WTC iceberg.

For an excellent summary (actually more like an in-depth assessment) of the A2, along side virtually every road scheme ever imagined in Northern Ireland, please have a look at Wesley Johnston’s amazing website: it is unbiased, easily understood and gives you as much or as little information as you need to know about any of these schemes.  Probably you will get hooked on the site, so I will set you the challenge to predict what will be the next victim of the minister’s A5 ego trip, will it be the Armagh, the Cookstown or the Magherafelt By-pass, the Yorkgate junction up-grade, or maybe the REAL access to the North West via the A6, including the much needed Dungiven by-pass?  Before the greenies amongst you say scrap them all, maybe it will be the Belfast Rapid Transport System.

In reality all of these schemes, and many more, are unlikely to go ahead due to this one political stunt, a road scheme design to carry a message rather than traffic, uniting North and South, but ignoring more practical divisions closer to home, and a financial black hole larger than the annual budgets of 6 governments departments.

But sure lets just blame the scrapped schemes on the Tories, rather than on the executive where, I’m guessing* the A5 scheme was never properly discussed, approved or put to the assembly, this is despite its likelihood to be the largest single spend during the next term assembly term. (*we have to guess because Executive secrecy wont even let you know what is secret and what is not!)

As a part of the St Andrews agreement the DUP let this Trojan horse slip through, sweetened by Bertie’s promise to virtually pay for the thing, they have cheered its progress much of the way, even up to the launch of the final route (see pic of Peter at the Launch in Dublin 2 yrs ago) with Arlene Foster and others welcoming the progress at various North South Ministerial meeting.

Recently Lord Morrow and some DUP Cllrs. have voiced concerns locally, having come under intense pressure from Tom Elliott & Kenny Donaldson, however as usual the devil is in the detail with their protestations being merely for minor amendments not a complete rethink.  Once again it is obvious the SinnDup Coalition deal takes precedence over communities, the environment and political conviction, but does it have to override economic common sense?

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  • joeCanuck

    DR,

    This has been a hobby horse of yours for quite a while and I am in total agreement. Parts of the existing road do need significant improvement but I cannot see the sloution being a brand new dual carriageway. Great improvements have been carried out over the past 30 years since I left and that should continue. That would be sufficient.

  • DC

    DR – I think you mean the A2 Shore Road at Greenisland, not Greencastle?
    ( thanks DC fixed it )
    Anway, the A2 upgrade costs £55mil whereas the A5 costs £844mil – small beer in the grand scheme of things.

    While the A2 doesn’t score as highly in cost/benefit terms on the basis of need itself it is a stretch of road which hasn’t been altered since the 1960s – if not since horse and cart. The government has spent £12mil buying up property for demolition along the A2 – so there is a personal cost with this as well as financial – people have been forced to sell up and move on – and for what? No new road after all!

    Murphy’s decision smacks of electioneering, however Unionists cannot get off scot free – the A2 road should have been upgraded years and years ago – you need only look at the development of Bangor in relation to Carrickfergus to see just how much a poor road can throttle growth and investment – as the Wesley Johnston site states:

    This is a serious bottleneck and causes huge delays and much stress every day for the vehicles which travel along the route (26,000 per day north of Greenisland; 35,000 south of Greenisland)…

    …This is very sad news for the scheme, given that it has been planned for decades and was probably only months away from commencing.

    Also the NIR service on the Larne to Belfast line operates trains in use since the early 80s (some before) yet passengers still experience price rises in fares (which are imposed across the NIR network) despite the service on that specific line not being there to justify it in any way whatsoever – in all truth the service is declining due to the older trains breaking down more often and the countless failures of the in-carriage heating (which has been a complete bollocks for passengers in the morning given the recent cold weather). Same goes for those station/managers with responsibility along the Larne line – I bet they are paid the exact same as other managers / station managers across the NIR network despite it not actually being a universal service. How can such managers be on professional salaries whenever the lack of quality trains means such a salary can never be justified – because there isn’t a professional and modern service along that stretch of track? What’s the point in paying modern management salaries for a soviet-era service? And I hear Translink are to lay staff off!

  • A5 Public Inquiry to begin in May. Would that be after the local elections?

  • danidiot

    Interesting revelation.
    Seem to recall, a fortnight ago, my complaints about this failure to build 1 mile of road being dismissed as ‘absolutely moronic’ by another contributor.
    Now it emerges £16m has already been wasted to leave the route littered with abandoned homes. Even more ridiculously, a new development of houses leading on to the Shore Road was given the go ahead, which undoubtedly (if they ever sell) will lead to more congestion on the Shore Rd, already at snail’s pace from early morning and mid-afternoon.
    What an absolute shambles by all concerned…local politicans, the MP and the woeful minister.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I think it is unlikely they will be able to fit it into the 2 days between the bank holiday and the election! It should be delayed until any new minister has had an unblinkered look at the scheme.

  • DC

    Danidiot – not to mention the houses that were bought up the government have sea views in a nice shore location – and home owners (some there for years) were bucked out! You just couldn’t make it up. Talk about not being in touch up in the ivory towers.

    That’s the trouble perhaps with unionist areas – they get shafted by politicians of all colours and still kindly suck it up without much of a whimper on their behalf – whereas in other districts it’s quite clearly unfair political discrimination.

    And the proof: no new trains no new roads.

    Now if you’ll excuse me – I’m off to suck it up.

  • DC

    *by the government

  • joeCanuck

    Investment in infrastucture is very impotant for the development of any area. But money needs to be spent wisely, especially right now with the whole economy in a mess. Do our so-called politicians really consider and debate these issues or are they totally consumed by ensuring that everything is a zero-sum game?

    DR,
    You forestalled my flaming of the person who wasn’t simply off-thread but was way out there in the wilderness. I don’t know what he was thinking.

  • danidiot

    Is it any wonder Carrickfergus is such a hole? Who in their right mind would invest there (apart from Lidl) with the Greenisland bottleneck creating such traffic chaos day and daily.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Dani, todays decision is purely down to Murphys pushing this un-need scheme through and nothing else, it a political stunt, and an extremely expensive one!

  • Comrade Stalin

    DR,

    Describing the £16m as “wasted” is a lie and is shoddy reporting, even if that. The money that has been spent on planning, surveys, geotechnical studies and compulsory property acquisitions is not wasted. It won’t need to be spent again. It’s true to say that for any project there will be ramp down and ramp up costs. Unlikely these will be anywhere close to £16m.

    As a general principle, DRD spending on transportation is massively biased in favour of roads. We’ve seen several very large and comprehensive roads construction schemes delivered, together with a very stupid (mis) guided bus scheme planned (I hope that pile of rubbish gets shelved) and almost nothing on public transport infrastructure beyond new rolling stock aimed to sustain, rather than expand, use of the railways. This is unsurprising as we keep voting for politicians who are pro-roads and who would rather subsidize water charges, duplicate education and housing systems, and the maintenance of the tribal society rather than divert funding to infrastructure here.

    DC:

    You’re excelling even your own lofty standards in talking incoherent twaddle.

    The government has spent £12mil buying up property for demolition along the A2 – so there is a personal cost with this as well as financial – people have been forced to sell up and move on – and for what? No new road after all!

    If you support the construction of the road then you must accept that property acquisition was necessary, and you’ll no doubt have taken the time to inform yourself that the route chosen was the one which involved the least acquisition. If you don’t support it, then what’s the problem ? I guess you have some sort of magic plan to build the road with money doesn’t exist and to use Time Lord technology to avoid knocking down any houses ?

    Murphy’s decision smacks of electioneering, however Unionists cannot get off scot free – the A2 road should have been upgraded years and years ago – you need only look at the development of Bangor in relation to Carrickfergus to see just how much a poor road can throttle growth and investment – as the Wesley Johnston site states:

    This section was difficult for a number of reasons, especially those relating to the fact that the (wealthy) local residents tied the thing up in inquiries and reviews. You can’t blame the unionists for this one. The UUP and DUP have been campaigning on this matter continuously for the past ten years, as has Alliance. I am not sure what else they could have been expected to do while remaining inside their mandate – a mandate which requires them to divert funds away to stupid things rather than build up our infrastructure.

    You just couldn’t make it up. Talk about not being in touch up in the ivory towers.

    Alright then, as a person who is not in an ivory tower please tell me your alternative A2 widening plan ?

    danidiot:

    Seem to recall, a fortnight ago, my complaints about this failure to build 1 mile of road being dismissed as ‘absolutely moronic’ by another contributor.

    That’s because they were. You were blaming ministers and local politicians for things that are pretty either beyond their control, or in line with the electoral mandate they receive. Furthermore, you can’t just plough a road through the middle of an old and rather wealthy neighbourhood like that with the sweep of a ministerial pen. This thing has been planned for over 15 years now and the inquiries, reviews and all the other bollocks has been pretty much constant.

    Now it emerges £16m has already been wasted to leave the route littered with abandoned homes.

    Another person who doesn’t understand what “wasted” means.

    Is it any wonder Carrickfergus is such a hole? Who in their right mind would invest there (apart from Lidl) with the Greenisland bottleneck creating such traffic chaos day and daily.

    This is what I mean by “moronic”. The bottleneck is caused by people from the corridor between Jordanstown and Larne commuting into Belfast. The case for the widening has pretty much nothing whatsoever to do with bringing people into Carrick. There is no blockage in the Carrick direction in the mornings or during the day, at least not that I’ve seen whin my daily commute out of Whiteabbey for the past five years.

  • DC

    Comrade – you’re sounding like a pompous Alliance twat – please tell me what’s incoherent about it?

    Because some of the properties that were purchased by government were good properties (and they were bought at the peak of the property boom as well). Being good properties I imagine the (forced) sellers would have liked to live on in most of them – you know shore road sea view types – and might have appreciated staying on in their homes for longer, if they had known. As apparently the road widening will now be knocked back till after 2015 – the houses are sitting there vacated and empty – government money spent occupying land with no immediate purpose. (I suppose the government could rent the properties out so that other people can derive the benefit of them till the road is built.)

    Alright then, as a person who is not in an ivory tower please tell me your alternative A2 widening plan?

    I would simply go ahead with it because it only costs £54 million whereas the A5 costs £844million – it’s more doable than a costly vanity project. I am in favour of the widening.

    The case for the widening has pretty much nothing whatsoever to do with bringing people into Carrick. There is no blockage in the Carrick direction in the mornings or during the day, at least not that I’ve seen whin my daily commute out of Whiteabbey for the past five years.

    Alright smart arse – how do you propose you get lorries and cars back up into Belfast again after coming down into Carrick? Say you want your goods down in Carrick and lorry back up into Belfast quickly in the morning or a haulage firm doing deliveries for potential businesses in Carrick wanting to do likewise – how do you propose doing a fast turnaround if the Belfast lane is still blocked late into the morning? Or say even if the old Courtalds factory was suddenly occupied with the likes of Ikea, John Lewis, M&S etc – don’t you think the traffic created by such having such stores in place would be only cause blockages throughout the whole day, than just the commuter problems.

    This is what I mean by “moronic”.

    No Comrade you are the example of moronic because according to you I might talk twaddle – but you simply pass comment on things you don’t know what you’re talking about. If you did – you would know Marks & Spencers didn’t set up in Carrick because of the poor road infrastructure, the site earmarked failed the feasibility test; it isn’t just people and potential customers sitting in traffic it will be M&S goods vehicles and whatever else needing access and turnaround back into Belfast and beyond.

  • aquifer

    £844M for a political gesture sounds a lot when the money could be spent on paying down debt or investing. e.g. connecting the Shell gas platforms in Mayo to the grid.

    A few illuminated signs pointing people to open coffee bars in Castleblaney or Omagh would make the journey safer and create jobs.

  • Zig70

    I bike it and would miss the smugness cycling passed the big queue.

  • danidiot

    “There is no blockage in the Carrick direction in the mornings or during the day, at least not that I’ve seen whin my daily commute out of Whiteabbey for the past five years.”

    If you leave Whiteabbey and head into Belfast, what would you know about traffic congestion from Loughshore as far as the Station Road, Greenisland from 3 pm onwards?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Stalin, until the road is built the money is wasted, plain and simple, look at Wesley Johnston’s website again for all those “delayed” projects that never happened, with roads so often delay means dead.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “It is a bit strange for a Tyrone man like myself to be putting the case for an infrastructure development in Greater Belfast”

    It should not be as infrastructure should be built were it is needed.

    The question is more why do you think that Tyrone does not need the upgraded A5?

    For that matter in your discussion you left the people of Donegal out of your thinking.

    Do you think the people of Donegal need such a road?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Taggart, I agree, the difficulty is does the infastructure go to places or populations, its an old story. As for the A5 in Tyrone, to start of with it will have a very limited number of access points ( to easily facilitate future toll charging one wonders! ) so will be of limited use to local traffic. Of course those on the existing road will look forwards to the reduced traffic, but not that’s just moving a problem, and actually increasing those affected by road noise. The initial welcome from most quickly changed when the details emerged, and to be honest there are alot higher priorities in the county, while still providing a degree of upgrade to the A5.
    Was talking to Donegal relatives at the weekend, they didnt know their government was pumping 400, million euro into it! they were outraged!

  • Colm McGinn

    Why do you all think it’s just a matter of the minister’s ego?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Colm, he is doing his bit for “Irish Unity”, might not have started off that way, prob was the southern governments idea to link Donegal to Dublin, and initially it looked like they would cover the whole cost, when that changed to less than 50% he should have pulled the plug on it, but it looked like such a good Republican move to unite the NW to Dublin he couldn’t resist it appeal despite it being totally illogical.

  • Another side of the Greenisland story featured on the Nolan Show this morning. The gist of it goes like this. One of the houses on the path of the proposed road was occupied by an elderly couple.

    An impersonal bureaucracy sent out letters, not people, telling folks that a new road was going through and that their properties would be demolished. The husband was worried sick; he died a broken man not that long afterwards.

    Adjacent properties were bulldozed and before family members could arrange a new home for his widow, she died too. IIRC the family also lost out financially because the house wasn’t in the widow’s name at the time certain decisions were taken.

    In some instances properties have to be vested but surely there’s a better way of doing it.

  • Colm McGinn

    ‘Irish Unity’ is just a stunt/ smokescreen.

    What about the money? Most of £1000,000,000 (One Billion £s)

    That’s a lot of quarrying, a lot of road contractors. A lot of possibilities. Bertie Ahern’s little stunt, just loved by the other parties to that deal.

  • Barry the Blender

    Wesley Johnston’s site was as interesting as promised Drumlins.

    I particularly enjoyed looking at the new and future road schemes maps he produces every January, comparing 2010 with 2011. It looks like basically we’re keeping this and a upgrade on the A8 to Larne, with the A2 (much discussed), A6 (Derry to Dungiven and Castledawson to Randalstown) and A29 (cookstown bypass) losing out, give or take a few fiddly bits.

    Looking at the map I can see the logic in upgrading the A5 from Omagh to meet the A4 but the rest is a mystery (seemingly unless one is a republican). The Cookstown bypass is a major loss, as is that at Dungiven, whereas anyone travelling between Castledawson and the M2 at rush hour will for years longer wait at frustration as one of the province’s major bottlenecks remains uncertified.