‘Surprising’ sum spent on stalled Belfast York Street swap scheme before work begins

0

A department in Stormont has spent £22.3million on the stalled York Street swap scheme without a single lawn being cut.

The long-delayed project aims to solve a major bottleneck in North Belfast between Westlink, M2 and M3 – three of Northern Ireland’s busiest roads.

Public inquiries into the plans were suspended in 2015, but work was suspended following a legal challenge to the bidding process.

Read more:Council withdraws support for York Street Interchange congestion program

An external review of the project was set up in 2020 by then Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and subsequently she commissioned consultants to further consider “place-making” in the plans.

The redevelopment, which is estimated to cost around £165m, was included in the New Decade New Approach deal which restored Stormont’s power-sharing in 2020.

Securing funding for the program was also part of the DUP’s 2017 confidence and supply agreement, which backed former Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority Conservative government.

The Department for Infrastructure bill has so far been confirmed in response to a written question from the Assembly by DUP North Belfast MP Phillip Brett.

He described the spending as “surprising” and urged new Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd to move the project forward quickly.

Mr Brett said: “In 2017, the DUP, through our Trust and Supply Agreement, secured funding for this vital major infrastructure program.

“Despite repeated assurances from the previous Minister, no substantial progress has been made in launching this transformational project.

“It is surprising and extremely concerning that without a single lawn being cut, the Department for Infrastructure has spent £22.3million on the project.

“I requested a meeting with the Minister to stress the importance of moving this project forward.

“The York Street Interchange is a landmark project that will have a transformative impact on our economy in the short and long term.

“For all those people who spend an hour every morning and every evening riding along the Westlink, this project would be transformative. It’s high time we got things moving.”

The project proposed to replace the existing traffic light controlled junctions on York Street with direct links between Westlink, M2 and M3.

It would also separate through traffic from other motorists by building underpasses under the current road and rail bridges and under a new bridge over York Street.

Mr O’Dowd was appointed caretaker infrastructure minister in the absence of a new Stormont executive after SDLP’s Ms Mallon lost her MP seat in the May election.

The Sinn Féin MP said work was “underway” to look at recent reviews of the York Street interchange project.

He said: “The Placemaking and Active Travel Review, which aimed to maximize the social, economic and environmental benefits of the York Street Interchange project and its contribution to the future development of Belfast, is now complete.

“The report identified a number of options to improve place creation and the provision of active travel. Work is underway to refine the shortlisted options and examine factors related to their potential implementation.”

Read more:Campaign group formed to promote better cycling infrastructure in North Belfast

Read more:Council withdraws support for York Street Interchange congestion program

For the latest political news straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter here.

Share.

About Author

Comments are closed.