FTA, the business organisation which represents the logistics industry has expressed its delight at news that the upgrade work to the A6 between Derry and Dungiven is finally under way.
After months of discussions, as Seamus Leheny, FTA’s policy manager explains, the upgraded road will give the country’s businesses which rely on the movement of goods and services a much-needed boost: “It’s often said that, in business, time is money,” he explains, “and never more so when transporting time-sensitive goods to factories, shops, schools, hospitals and more. The logistics sector has long been pressing for the dualling of the A6, to provide improved and more reliable journey times and the new road will undoubtedly provide insurances to businesses over time sensitive deliveries on which they all rely.
“The current single carriageway road is frequently blocked or running slowly thanks to congestion, which can add huge uncertainties to the fulfilment of business contracts for manufacturers and retailers. And when you consider that the operating cost of a 44 tonne lorry and trailer is just over £1 per minute, reducing delays will help commercial operators manage their costs better, and avoid unnecessary bills for their customers.”
When complete, the 25.5km mile section of the A6 will include a bypass around Dungiven and will eventually link Derry and Belfast via a dual carriageway. This section upgrade is expected to reduce journey times by almost 50%, and even more during peak hours. And, as Leheny continues, the new road will also have increased safety benefits for other road users:
“The new road will allow HGVs to travel at up to 50mph and prevent the long tailbacks which have caused frustration for other road users along the single track highway. Overtaking will be easier and safer on a dual carriageway, which is great news for all travellers as well.”
According to the Department for Infrastructure, the upgrade to the A6 will cost £220 million and work is expected to take up to four years to complete.
“Although we have been pressing for this upgrade on behalf of the logistics industry for some time, in the grand scheme of things, four years is a relatively short period of time,” says Leheny. “The vast majority of freight which moves along the A6 transits through Belfast and Larne Ports, and is disseminated through the distribution centres across the greater Belfast area, so improved frequency and reliability of deliveries will benefit trade not only here but also in the North West, with its connectivity to the rest of the UK, as well as to the rest of Europe.
“What we will end up with is a more reliable piece of highway which will enable logistics operators to provide the necessary, reliable support which manufacturers, retailers and other movers of freight require in order to keep their businesses trading with reduced costs, better road safety and improved prospects of inward investment for Northern Ireland, due to better connectivity. This is definitely great news for business across the province.”