The Infrastructure Minister announced last week that the York Street Interchange project – to remove the traffic lights linking the M2 and M3 to the A12 – was now “on hold”.
For this, bizarrely, he tried to blame the Secretary of State. In fact, what he was really saying was that the scheme cannot proceed without EU funding.
Which is odd, because he hasn’t even tried applying!
As noted in the above link, I do think the scheme needs to be linked to the upgrade of the A2 Sydenham Bypass to have full effect. However, the delay has serious economic consequences, in terms of hours lost for vehicles (workers) heading between Northern Ireland’s motorways and the city centre, and in terms of freight accessing its ports of entry.
To be frank, I do not think the Minister had much other option because it is quite apparent his party’s position was not to proceed anyway. Alternatives would include, for example, delaying the A6 project, which is high priority for enabling access to Belfast (and its ports and airports) from Mid Ulster and the North West; or delaying the A5 project, which I judge to be considerably less important but which appeared in his party’s pre-election pledges upon which he attained his mandate (in other words, it is a democratic priority if not necessarily a rational one). In other words, his party was always clear it would focus away from Belfast. In fairness, he has not cancelled the project, merely nudged it to third place in the priority list, thus meaning it will not proceed this decade.
No, the blame for this lies squarely with the DUP.
It was the DUP which proposed “Brexit” knowing that one of the consequences would be withdrawal of funding from vital infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland. It was the DUP which claimed Northern Ireland was a net contributor to the EU budget when even the Leave campaign was forced to admit it is a net recipient – not least because of contributions to infrastructure such as the new A8 expressway. It was the DUP which did not take the Infrastructure portfolio.
And small wonder it is the DUP which is not kicking up a fuss now. It does not want Northern Ireland commuters, businesses and hauliers to realise that this serious delay to a vital piece of infrastructure is entirely and directly the result of DUP policies and actions.
Indeed, it is quite evident the party long ago agreed with Sinn Féin not to prioritise York Street – “Brexit” is just a convenient excuse.
So let there be no doubt where the blame lies. We may forget about the DUP being the party of business; it is the party of petty populism, and now business is paying for it.