Posted by: wesleyjohnston | April 27, 2016

2016 Assembly Election – where do the parties stand on road building?

The Northern Ireland Assembly election takes place on May 5, 2016. In this blog I do a brief roundup of where each party stands in terms of the development of the road network specifically. Links are to the manifestos I used as sources. I’ve limited this to parties that currently have seats and who are seeking re-election.


The DUP list “infrastructure” as one of their five priorities, and roads are included in this. They stress that “Northern Ireland needs to keep investing in new and improved road networks to keep our region competitive” – so they are supportive of building new roads in principle. In terms of how it should be developed, they go on to say that “Investment should be focused upon improving connections between our key towns and cities and schemes that are of strategic and economic importance”.

They go on to list some specific schemes that they would support:

  • the dualling of the Newbuildings to north of Strabane section of the A5 (notably this is not a commitment to dual the entire A5);
  • dual carriageways for the Londonderry to Dungiven and the Randalstown to Castledawson sections of the A6 (the road from Belfast to L’Derry – both in planning, the latter to get underway within months);
  • the York Street interchange [M2/M3/Westlink];
  • the [A24] Ballynahinch bypass;
  • the Newry Southern relief road (which could potentially be paired up with the Narrow Water bridge proposal) and
  • the [A4] Enniskillen Southern bypass.

And, in another section, they add

  • the Belfast Rapid Transit Scheme

Sinn Féin list “infrastructure” as one of the items on their ten point programme. They pledge to “invest £6 billion to improve roads, transport and other infrastructure including the completion of the A5 and A6”. Although this money is not purely to be spent on roads, they are the only party to give any actual figures for investment levels.

They then list three specific schemes that they would support:

  • completion of the A5 and A6 (they do not say whether they mean dualling all of these roads, but it seems likely that they mean this for at least the A5);
  • complete the Belfast Rapid Transport system;
  • work with the Dublin government to ensure Narrow Water Bridge (which got cancelled due to excalating costs but which could potentially be paired up with the Newry Southern relief road).

The road construction schemes listed here are all either (a) schemes that would encourage cross-border traffic, or (b) improve access to the North West, or indeed both.


The SDLP begin by deriding years of under-investment before coming out strongly in favour of investment in the road network: “A vibrant and equitable economy cannot operate without a modern roads network. For decades chronic underinvestment means that today Northern Ireland’s road network is no longer fit for purpose.

They go on to promise to “prioritise the completion of the A5 and A6”, but express scepticism about the current manner of funding them: “Sinn Fein and the DUP’s proposed funding model cannot and will not deliver these projects on time or within budget. The SDLP will explore additional funding options to ensure these projects happen.

They then go on to list some specific schemes, some of which are not mentioned by any other parties:

  • The planned [A24] Ballynahinch bypass.
  • A major upgrade of the road between Newry and Downpatrick [the A25] (to maximise the benefit of the Narrow Water Bridge and to open up the Mournes).
  • Major improvement of the Northern Ireland side of the A4/N16 between Enniskillen and Sligo (ie, upgrading the A4 west of Enniskillen).
  • A dedicated link road from the M1 to the A1 at Lisburn to allow Belfast – Dublin traffic to move uninterrupted by the congested Sprucefield junction (ie, the M1/A1 Sprucefield Bypass which is currently a longer-term plan).

They also specifically mention Narrow Water Bridge:

  • The SDLP remains committed to the Narrow Water Bridge project and the SDLP will ensure that the development of the project is at the forefront of the next Executive’s infrastructural agenda (which got cancelled due to excalating costs but which could potentially be paired up with the Newry Southern relief road).

The UUP make a specific issue of the amount of funding for road maintenance (which is currently very under-funded) and note that they want to “agree the multi-year road maintenance budget in the departmental baseline, rather than unsustainably rely on the monitoring round process” (currently maintenance tends to get the leftover funds at the end of the year).

They go on to list three road schemes that they would prioritise, though notably not mentioning the dualling of the A5, the only one of the “big four” not to do so. It is also noteworthy that all list the A6 dualling, the only road construction scheme to get support from all four of the these parties.

  • York Street Interchange [M2/M3/Westlink];
  • the A6;
  • Belfast Rapid Transit system;

The Alliance Party does not mention road building in its lengthy manifesto, focusing instead on sustainable transport, but it does emphasise road safety as a key issue and seeks to move the emphasis in road policy towards that. They also want to give councils the power to introduce 20mph zones in residential areas.


The TUV emphases their view that economic need means that road building must be a priority: “The priority must be towards building roads because of their economic, rather than political, justification.” The manifesto criticises the dualling of the A5 as a “political” project and instead calls for a joint project with the Scottish government to dual the A75 in Scotland (the link from Stranraer towards England). The only other specific scheme that gets a mention is Belfast’s recently-introduced city centre bus lanes: “Choking Belfast City centre with bus lanes is not in the commercial interests of the City”.


The Green Party is the only party to take a position actively opposed to road building, seeking a “a moratorium on new road build projects with a focus on better maintenance of existing road infrastructure”. Nevertheless, in case this does not happen, they also want to “ensure that all road upgrades include provision for cycling”. They want to “rebalance transport spend towards public transport and active travel”. The manifesto focuses on this.


UKIP, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t take a strong position on road building, noting simply that “our transport system is inadequate and costs us all too much money” and pledging to “push for a proper local transport system which meets the passenger’s needs.”


The Conservative Party position has been given below in the comments – thank you.

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Responses

  1. Conservative Party
    FAST TRACKING THE RIGHT ROADS
    The mutualisation of NI Water would free up £300m to be spent elsewhere. Our plans for students and the plan to abolish APD would cost up to £100m. This leaves £200m from the existing budgets to be redeployed.
    We would prioritise the building of roads that would reduce congestion and aid the economy.
    Specifically we would:
    • Build the M2/M3/Westlink/York Road Junction upgrade.
    This junction is a key bottle-neck right next to our main harbour. The current Executive is making noises about building this but is has not committed any funding to the project. This would cost £115m.
    • We would fast-track the project to widen the Sydenham Bypass at a
    cost of £45m. Again there are currently no plans by the current Executive to fund this vital project.
    We would also priortise the construction of a new road to link the A1 and M1 and the site of the former Maze prison. This would relieve congestion at Blaris-Sprucefield and open up not just the Maze site but West Lisburn industrial estates. This would cost approximately £100m.

    We would payfor this by halving the current £230m the Executive plans to spend on the A5 in the next four years. Removing the congestion
    on the main road between Belfast and Dublin is a greater priority than the A5.

  2. […] to Derry/Londonderry). This is hardly a surprise, given that upgrades to these roads were manifesto pledges of both the DUP and Sinn Féin. However, there are a number of comments in the press release worth […]


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