The A6 Randalstown-Castledawson dualling scheme is controversial because of the land it impacts upon, including the Lough Beg/Creagh Bog area, scenery featured in the poetry of Seamus Heaney.
Ornithologist Chris Murphy was granted leave last November to seek a judicial review to challenge the legality of the site investigations and ecological surveys. He argued that the habitats directive had been breached on a specially protected area.
However, his challenge has now been dismissed, with the judge, Siobhan Keegan, deciding that all proper procedures had been followed.
The A6 is the main road between Belfast and Londonderry. The Randalstown-Castledawson upgrade involves 14km of new dual carriageway being constructed in two sections: 7.3km from the end of the M22 at Randalstown to the Toome Bypass; and 6.7km from Toome Bypass to the Castledawson roundabout.
Graham/Farrans JV is main contractor for the £160m project.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure said: “Today’s decision means 18,000 road users and the local community are set to directly benefit as the new dual carriageway will reduce journey times and improve road safety. The scheme is predicted to result in a saving of almost 600 collisions over its 60 year economic life. The ruling has also recognised the care and attention we take, with the statutory environmental bodies, to preserve, protect and develop environmentally sensitive areas under consideration for road development.
“The local construction industry will also see a considerable benefit with this £160m scheme delivering local jobs and investment. The department has committed to introducing ‘buy social’ clauses into this contract which will generate new entrant trainee employment in the form of apprenticeships and graduate jobs. The works will specifically create between 15-20 new paid employment and training opportunities over the construction period.
“Preliminary works on the project have continued to be progressed in accordance with the environmental commitments given and the objective is to complete the scheme in 2021. It is the department’s intention to commence major construction works on the scheme as soon as possible.”
The Freight Transport Association also welcomed the ornithologist’s defeat. Policy manager Seamus Leheny said: “This news means work can now commence on upgrading this antiquated piece of the road network, to ensure that another piece of the A6 jigsaw is completed. Goods will have improved journey time reliability, something that has held back businesses in the affected region in the past and has been proved unattractive to potential inward investment.”