Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

EU funding body set to visit Southern Relief Road site

News that an important EU funding body may visit the site of the proposed £200m Southern Relief Road outside Newry this summer has been hailed as “a significant development.”

MEP Diane Dodds has written to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council advising that  DRD Minister Michelle McIlveen has pledged to ensure that the Council and other stakeholders are included in the itinerary for a prospective visit to the site by a European coordinator of the TEN-T North Sea Mediterranean Corridor, Peter Balazs.

Mr Balazs is one of 11 heavily influential coordinators who control the funding pot which improves port infrastructure across Europe.

According to Warrenpoint Councillor, Michael Carr, the TEN-T fund “has billions in it” and, if the Southern Relief Road’s funding application was successful, it could receive up to 40% of the funding from the EU body.

“The Southern Relief Road would open up Warrenpoint Port, which is what this EU body is all about, so a visit by Mr Balazs to Newry would be significant in progressing the project.”

As of April last year, the project, which is a road crossing Newry Canal and the Clanrye River from the Dublin side of Newry to the Newry-Warrenpoint carriageway to alleviate heavy-goods vehicles utilising Warrenpoint Port, was escalated into Transport NI’s forward Planning Schedule which meant it was now being actively planned.

While work has already begun on the Stage 1 Preliminary Options Scheme Assessment which involves traffic and environmental surveys, the scheme’s progress will depend on several factors, including that it remains a priority compared to other competing projects, and that it secures funding.

Highlighting the benefits of the Southern Relief Road project, Councillor Carr said,

“There are 600 truck movements through Newry each day coming from Warrenpoint Port.

“The air pollution in Newry is in poor condition, so from a Newry point of view, it would relieve all that traffic congestion as well as improve air quality.  Regarding Warrenpoint, it would boost trade at the port and would open up new doors to tourism.”