By Emmet McElhatton
PLANS to upgrade the main Enniskillen to Omagh road have been branded “extremely disappointing.”
Despite identified as in dire need of a significant improvements from as early as 2008, the Department of Infrastructure (DfI) claim that budgetary constraints are making the A32 improvement schemes difficult to finance.
The issues with the road, which is the main route for patients travelling to the SWAH from Tyrone, was raised at the October meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh Council last week.
Commenting on the beleaguered A32 project, GP and local councilor, Dr Jo Deehan said, “We all understand the budgetary constraints… but I feel this is just not good enough”.
“The upgrade of the A32 was something that was considered an absolute necessity (especially following the closure of Omagh County Hospital in 2017) to ensure the safety of patients being transferred from Omagh and district to our new acute hospital in Enniskillen.
“It is very disappointing that those improvements have not been completed all these years ahead.”
DfI has said it is managing a 14 per-cent reduction in its 2023-24 budget compared to 2022-23.
In a letter to FODC, DfI’s Transport and Road Asset Management Deputy Secretary, Colin Woods, said, “Significant action has been taken to reduce spending across all areas, and fares and other charges have been increased to help sustain essential services. Having done all of that, the department is still facing a large funding gap against its resource budget allocation.”
Mr Woods estimates that maintaining the North’s road network to a ‘reasonable condition’ this year would cost £143million.
However, Mr Woods went on to acknowledge that DfI only have a budget of £85million to spend on road maintenance for 2023-2024.
This suggests £58 million-worth of necessary road repairs will not be carried out this year.
Responding to Mr Woods’ letter to FODC, Dr Deehan said, “We all understand the budgetary constraints, but we have been told by DfI Roads that some of these sections have been shovel ready for quite a considerable period of time, and I just feel it is not good enough really.
“The safety of our constituents is being compromised by the dangers of that journey along the A32.”
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