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Editor's Viewpoint: £80m spent, but A5 still going nowhere

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The creation of the new A5 Western Transport Corridor looks like a work in progress. And it certainly eats up public money like a work in progress. Since 2007, almost £80m has been spent on the project. Yet not a single yard of tarmac has been laid

The creation of the new A5 Western Transport Corridor looks like a work in progress. And it certainly eats up public money like a work in progress. Since 2007, almost £80m has been spent on the project. Yet not a single yard of tarmac has been laid.

To the man in the street - the man who is actually funding the project through taxes - this seems a tremendous contradiction. How could so much be spent from the public purse for no visible return?

Full story: £79.5m spent but work yet to begin on 'death trap' road in Northern Ireland

Our story, which gives a breakdown of the expenditure, shows that well over half - nearly £49m - has gone on fees to consultants and another £20m to contractors.

No doubt all this is valuable work in preparing the ground for the new 53 miles of dual carriageway, but equally certainly the number of objections raised against the project has contributed greatly to the expenditure to date.

This project - running from Aughnacloy near the border in Tyrone to Londonderry - was first mooted in 2007 but has since been subjected to a large number of legal challenges and also uncertainty over funding.

Initially, the Irish government had promised to put up £400m of the £650-£800m total cost, but then most of that was withdrawn in 2011.

A High Court judgment quashing the decision to go ahead with the dual carriageway caused another two year delay, and another legal challenge was mounted this year when the first phase of the project was planned to go ahead.

In many ways this ghost road mirrors its architects, the ghost Assembly at Stormont. It was given the green light by local politicians, but now their political edifice has crumbled, leaving the road a very expensive vision on a drawing board with money still being drawn out of the public purse.

Would things be different if the devolved administration was restored? This is a moot point when one hears of the dysfunction at Stormont during the introduction of the RHI green energy scheme.

However, an infrastructure minister, at least, would give the project greater focus and someone capable of issuing directives on its progress.

Perhaps the Secretary of State's intention to introduce new legislation enabling civil servants to take major decisions will be an important step along that road. However some of the parties are opposed to these new laws and may launch a legal challenge to them if they are introduced. At least the path to the courts is well trodden in this sorry saga.

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The creation of the new A5 Western Transport Corridor looks like a work in progress. And it certainly eats up public money like a work in progress. Since 2007, almost £80m has been spent on the project. Yet not a single yard of tarmac has been laid