A6 dual carriageway to go ahead

The A6 upgrade
The A6 upgrade

A legal challenge to the Castledawson to Toome section of the A6 Dualling Scheme has been dismissed.

Environmentalist Chris Murphy lost a court case against the route of a major road scheme close to landscape made famous by poet Seamus Heaney.

He had gone to court to contest the route of the A6 dual carriageway at Toomebridge.

A statement from the Department for Infrastructure said today's decision means "18,000 road users and the local community are set to directly benefit as the new dual carriageway will reduce journey times and improve road safety".

The spokesman added: "The scheme is predicted to result in a saving of almost 600 collisions over its 60 year economic life. The ruling has also recognised the care and attention we take, with the statutory environmental bodies, to preserve, protect and develop environmentally sensitive areas under consideration for road development."

He added that the local construction industry will also see a "considerable benefit with this £160million scheme delivering local jobs and investment".

"The Department has committed to introducing ‘Buy Social’ clauses into this contract which will generate new entrant trainee employment in the form of apprenticeships and graduate jobs. The works will specifically create between 15-20 new paid employment and training opportunities over the construction period.

"Preliminary works on the project have continued to be progressed in accordance with the environmental commitments given and the objective is to complete the scheme in 2021. It is the Department’s intention to commence major construction works on the scheme as soon as possible.”

Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill welcomed today's court ruling.

"The A6 upgrade represents an investment of over £160m and has long been a key priority for Sinn Féin," the Mid-Ulster MLA said. "It is a key infrastructural project to help redress regional balance and was significantly moved forward by Sinn Féin Minister Chris Hazzard when preparatory work began last year.

"Today's court ruling is an endorsement of the Minister's approach and clears the way for the work to move onto the next stage. "When the project is completed in 2019, it will greatly reduce travel times between Derry and Belfast, a development which will be greatly welcomed by the many thousands of people who make that journey every day."