Derry-Dublin road corridor upgrade is to begin later this year after the Irish Government’s Department of Transport insisted the major project will not be affected by a massive huge overspend on the new National Children’s Hospital in Dublin.
The Republic’s government announced on Monday it was making €100 million in savings – including €27m earmarked for the A5 – to meet cost overruns at the hospital.
The move had sparked fears that the road upgrade would face further delays.
Sinn Féin had called for the decision to be reversed.
The SDLP and Fianna Fáil also said the road project – which will see a new 85km stretch from New Buildings outside Derry to Augnacloy in Co Tyrone, must go ahead.
However, a spokesperson for the Department of Transport said the overspend on the children’s hospital would not affect any road projects.
“There will not be a single cent cut off the Department of Transport’s capital spend on the A5,” he said.
“An unavoidable postponement in the development of the A5 – due to legal challenges on the Northern side – means the Department will save €27 million in our budget this year.
“Under the Stormont House Agreement and Implementation Plan the Government is committed to provide funding of £75 million for the construction of Phase 1a of the project (Newbuildings to north of Strabane).
“Provision had been made in the DTTaS budget for this funding to be provided in three tranches over 2019, 2020 and 2021.
“However, it is now understood that late 2019 is the earliest that construction could start. In the event of a further legal challenge, it could be early 2020 before construction could start. The A5 project goes ahead, this is merely a timing adjustment.”
The Dublin government was forced to find savings across several departments after the cost of the children’s hospital spiralled.
A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure said building work could begin this year.
“As the A5 is an Executive flagship project, funding from the NI block is assured,” she said.
“We continue to liaise regularly with our counterparts in Dublin and having had recent discussions with both DTTaS (Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport) and Department of the Taoiseach we have no concerns at this stage about Ireland’s contribution to the construction costs being made available when work is ready to commence.
“Subject to the completion of ongoing work and statutory procedures, work on the section from New Buildings to north of Strabane could commence on site in late 2019.”
The Dublin government had originally committed £400m to the project but had to withdraw funding in 2011 due to pressures on the Republic’s budget after the financial crash.
Around £75m was recommitted to the project as part of the 2015 Stormont House Agreement.
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said he wanted a guarantee from the Dublin government that the money would be ring-fenced.
“It concerns me greatly that anyone can dip their hand into the A5 pot when another issue comes up,” he said.
“We would want confirmation from the Irish government that this is not going to happen and for the original £400m to be reinstated.”