With regards to the Newry Southern Relief Road Phase 3 Public Consultation process, I would like to register my strongest opposition to this phase 3 fixed road bridge proposal - as a Newry resident, I have watched with interest the phase 1 & 2 DfI proposals, & now in the final Phase 3 proposal for central Government to decide to remove the £22m phase 2 costed opening bridge on the basis of "Value for Money" is just madness to the point of wanton destruction of the Albert Basin future developments.
On the 26th June 2019, I called in on the 3rd phase community consultation (exhibition) of the Newry Southern Relief Road. Had an opportunity to have a frank discussion with 3 of your DfI project engineers, & whilst the central government officials were informative, it was quite clear that this 3rd (& final) phase of a 3½ development process (co-financed by EU transport network) would be progressing to the next stage (legal Draft Orders by 2020), on the basis of a fixed road bridge over the canal with a limited clearance height of 12m (36ft).
I asked about the concerns that had been raised for the access of tail ships - ranging up to 35m (100ft), into the Albert basin, having heard that a number of interest groups had highlighted this, along with the practical design solution of an opening bridge. Opinion’s suggested that the DfI preferred 12m clearance fixed bridge infrastructure would not add value to the Albert Basin asset, more likely the opposite - this type of fixed infrastructure would de-value the Albert Basin’s potential!
The DfI official’s response suggested that while welcoming interested group inputs, they had not received any viable economic analysis to support the future development potential value of the Basin – analysis that they imply is needed to cost evaluate the impact of the fixed bridge (to justify DfI proposing an alternative opening bridge funded from the public finance’s). I tried to argue the obvious benefits of an opening bridge (i.e. anything that adds value to the Basin & does not restrict or limit use of the asset, must be preferred), but it was quite clear that the key DfI objective here was achieving Value for Money, & on this basis an opening bridge was not seen as viable option! I also struggled with the concept of DfI’s appraisal of the viable bridge options, which was not determined on what option added more value to the Albert Basin - quite the opposite, DfI expect the interested parties to prove that the fixed bridge option, would de-value the Albert Basin’s development potential...!!
The officials also confirmed that they were aware of an ongoing DfC & Newry district council Albert Basin future development potential assessment, but it was not clear if this development plan would provide viable economic analysis;
a) to value the Basin’s potential & in so doing, justify to DfI the need to re-evaluate for an opening bridge alternative, or
b) if that analysis would be available for the DfI consultation timeframe.
There is a growing swell of public opinion, which will possible require political intervention to rail in this Central Government Phase 3 complete change of direction on the provision of an opening bridge.
I would also ask under a Freedom of Information request for the Name & full contact details of the EU Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Project Sponsor/Senior Responsible Officer - to require major risk analysis/assessment with levels of risk mitigation measures developed & presented at this strategic level.