Roads minister challenged on safety by boy who lost dad in crash

A 10-year-old boy who lost his dad in a crash has challenged the Infrastructure Minister to improve safety on the notorious A5.

Bentley Smith’s Dad, Stephen McElwee, died in a collision in 2017.

The Sion Mills Primary School  pupil was one of a group of P6 and P7 students who quizzed John O’Dowd on delays to the upgrade of the road between Londonderry and Aughnacloy.

The minister was invited to visit the school where children have been learning about the A5 as part of a project.

Bentley Smith revealed his father was one of 42 people killed along the A5 since it first opened.

His classmate Con Kelly then directly challenged John O’Dowd 

“Minister what are you going to do to prevent people like Bentley’s Daddy losing their lives to the road?”, he asked.

Minister O’Dowd told the pupils he was committed to the A5 upgrade.

He appealed to protesters opposed to the project not to mount any more legal challenges.

Minister O’Dowd says that will further delay plans to upgrade parts of the road to a dual carriageway.

“The A5 needs built and these children have given voice to communities right along the A5. We often hear from objectors but today we heard from people who support the building of the new A5.”

The upgrade first announced in 2007 to cut journey times and improve road safety.

It will cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

Supporters say it’s key to boosting the economy of the North West by improving transport links.

However, a series of delays over the last 15 years have been caused by funding issues and legal challenges.

It faced strong objections from some landowners because the proposed route runs through their property.

Environmental concerns have also successfully halted construction in the past.

Minister O’Dowd said if current plans to upgrade the A5 are not subject to another judicial review work could start sometime next year.

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