Cookstown drivers slam £600k figure set aside for Cookstown bypass

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has officially opened the A31 Magherafelt bypass representing an investment of �35million, following its completion several weeks ahead of schedule.  The new 6 kilometre bypass will improve links for the movement of people, goods and services in the Mid Ulster area to and from the M2, Belfast and north-east.   Minister Chris Hazzard is pictured with Conor Loughery, Transport NI Divisional Manager, Francie Molloy (MP), and Chair of Mid Ulster Council Trevor Wilson.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has officially opened the A31 Magherafelt bypass representing an investment of �35million, following its completion several weeks ahead of schedule. The new 6 kilometre bypass will improve links for the movement of people, goods and services in the Mid Ulster area to and from the M2, Belfast and north-east. Minister Chris Hazzard is pictured with Conor Loughery, Transport NI Divisional Manager, Francie Molloy (MP), and Chair of Mid Ulster Council Trevor Wilson.

A total of £600k has been set aside for a new by-pass for Cookstown after calls for action on rush-hour traffic in the town, but the figure has been slammed.

Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy told the Mail that Chris Hazzard, Minister for Infrastructure, has secured additional funding that has allowed him to move forward with preparatory works for a by-pass around the town.

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard (second from right) at the official opening of the A31 Magherafelt bypass with Conor Loughery, Transport NI Divisional Manager, Francie Molloy (MP), and Chair of Mid Ulster Council Trevor Wilson. The road cost �35m

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard (second from right) at the official opening of the A31 Magherafelt bypass with Conor Loughery, Transport NI Divisional Manager, Francie Molloy (MP), and Chair of Mid Ulster Council Trevor Wilson. The road cost �35m

The news came shortly after the Magherafelt by-pass was completed four weeks early - easing traffic congestion in that town.

It is understood Minister Hazzard said up to £200,000 is available this year, 2016/17 with a further £400,000 being set aside the following year for the project in the ‘neglected’ west.

Mr Molloy has praised the move. He said: “This project has been delayed for some time and although a preferred route was selected several years ago no progress has been made since then. This news from the minister is very welcome and follows on from our meeting with him over the summer when we pressed the need for action on the Cookstown scheme.

“The minister has indicated his willingness to look at areas in the west that suffered from a lack of investment and make progress on what are smaller scale projects but would have a bigger impact on traffic through congested town centres.

“The completion of the Magherafelt scheme is an example of how a project can move forward once the commitment is given and we believe that Cookstown can progress quickly.

“There will have been many changes since the previous stage of work was carried out so it is essential that for the project to progress we have the details and statistics carried out enabling the actual work to proceed when ready.

“The commitment from the Minister to address the infrastructural neglect in the west is to be commended and it highlights the fact that to be able to make progress on projects such as this you need to be in Executive, making the case and making the decisions.”

But locally, the amount of money set aside for the project has been slammed, with some asking on social media if they are going to build a footpath and if the amount would even pay for the land needed to build a new by-pass.

“£35m for Magherafelt bypass and this one is 600 grand? Some chance,” said one local.

The Department for Infrastructure told the Mail the money is part of a £25m stimulus package, and will help to advance the “very important project”.

A department spokeserson said: “The additional funding for Cookstown Bypass is the sum required to progress the scheme’s development to the next stage.

“A specimen design will be prepared facilitating the production of draft Statutory Orders for the project and the development of an Environmental Statement.

“These will then be published for public consultation.‎”