The A5 is a major primary route in Northern Ireland. It travels through County Londonderry and County Tyrone, commencing in the city of Derry, passing the large towns of Strabane and Omagh before it meets the N2 across the border in the Republic of Ireland towards the final destination of Dublin.
The A5 starts at a crossroads in Derry where the Craigavon Bridge meets the A2. The A5 travels in a southerly direction skirting the River Foyle past Prehen and through the villages of New Buildings and across the border into Tyrone at Magheramason. A dangerous bend leads up to the village of Bready and the road then passes through Ballymagorry. It then by-passes the large town of Strabane, where it meets the A38 close to Lifford Bridge, which crosses the Border to Lifford onto the N15 close to its meeting with the N14
After by-passing Strabane, the A5 traverses through the historical village of Sion Mills and passes over the village of Victoria Bridge. It then by-passes Newtownstewart and continues on towards the county town of Omagh. On passing through the town, the A5 meets the A32 road, the main road between Omagh and Enniskillen.
The A5 continues to one of the best-known roundabouts in Northern Ireland – the Ballygawley Roundabout, located outside the village of the same name. Here, it meets and multiplexes for a few hundred metres with the A4 Belfast-Enniskillen route, before turning left towards the border village of Aughnacloy. On leaving Aughnacloy, the road crosses the border into County Monaghan and becomes the N2 towards Dublin.
Despite being the major route from Dublin to the north west of the island, the A5 route does not contain any dual carriageway sections, and for many years the route brought drivers through a series of towns and villages which often provided cumbersome bottlenecks.
Since the 1980s, construction has taken place on two sections of bypass around the town of Strabane. The first section, constructed and opened in the early 1990s, relieved the outlying northern neighbourhoods and the town centre of traffic using the A5, and in 2003, an extension of the road diverted traffic through the Melmount area of Strabane. Both projects have seen traffic improvements in the town. A proposed third section is now "on hold" pending wider decisions on the future of the A5.
A further bottleneck was provided through the village of Newtownstewart. Previously, the A5 route had to navigate a narrow section before taking a sharp right at a T-junction with the B46 to Plumbridge. This was followed by a left turn a short distance later through the southern part of the village, before meeting a dangerous right-hand bend which carried a 25 mph speed limit. A bypass of the village, following the route of the former londonderry-Portadown railway, was constructed and opened to traffic in 2003.
The 1990s also saw development on the A5 road to relieve traffic passing through Omagh, the county town of Tyrone. A bypass was constructed in three stages – the first, central, stage was completed in the mid-1990s and diverted the A5 route away from the town centre. A further relief road allowed traffic to avoid the increasingly built-up northern parts of the towns in the late 1990s, and in 2006, the final stage of the Omagh bypass was opened, taking traffic away from the many housing developments on the southern edge of the town and diverting traffic from a bridge over the Drumragh river, the site of a dangerous S-bend and accident black spot.
The Department of Regional Development has confirmed that part of the A5 route at Tullyvar, between Ballygawley and Aughnacloy, will be realigned, along with a similar project at Annaghilla on the A4 route nearby. Advanced site clearance works began in November 2007 with construction anticipated during 2008.
A series of other speculative schemes to improve the A5 have also been earmarked by the DRD:The completion of the Strabane by-pass project by a further realignment to the north of the town; construction may occur before 2011. Due to the larger scale upgrade now proposed (see next section) this scheme is officially on hold.
A new link road and crossing of the River Finn across the border near Strabane to meet the planned N14/N15 Lifford by-pass; the legal procedures to confirm this scheme are currently being negotiated and construction should occur between 2008 and 2010.
A planned upgrade of the A5 between londonderry and Victoria Bridge converting the carriageway to 2+1 standard. This scheme is now unlikely to happen as the entire route is to be dualled.
A further outer bypass of Omagh; construction timetabled for after 2015.
In October 2006, senior Irish Government sources confirmed that the forthcoming National Development Plan for the years 2007 to 2013 would include plans to offer co-funding for a series of infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland. The funding was accepted and in November 2007 the Northern Ireland Department for Regional Development announced that a route selection study had begun to upgrade the entire A5 route to dual-carriageway from the N2 at the Irish border near Aughnacloy, to Derry. This year it was decided that instead of upgrading the current road, a new dual carriageway would be constructed. The length of the new motorway will be 88 kilometres (55 mi). This would provide faster journey times from Derry and Northern Donegal to Dublin and beyond. It was suggested that if travelling on the new 88 km route then you could shave 20 minutes off travelling time. The cost of the project is currently estimated at approximately £850m up from the original estimate of £560m in 2007, of which will be partly funded by the Republic of Ireland. This will be both the longest and most expensive single road scheme ever undertaken in Northern Ireland. Construction is estimated to be completed by 2017. In June 2008, Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy announced plans for a feasibility study into creating an A6 – A5 Link Road around Derry. Please note though that this is not a commitment on behalf of his department.