A rethink may be needed on the much-delayed A5 Western Transport Corridor scheme, according to a roads expert.
Costs for the project have now exceeded £80million with work yet to begin, according to figures from the Department for Infrastructure.
More than £53million of that money has been spent on consultant fees, with DfI engaging London-based firm WSP UK to lead the project.
The scheme has been delayed since it was first proposed in 2007, with funding withdrawal from the Irish government and a series of legal challenges hampering its progress.
Roads expert Wesley Johnson, who is originally from Omagh, said the argument for the project to go ahead from a safety perspective is unquestioned but the economic viability is now in doubt.
Mr Johnson added: “The problem has come from the repeated delays which have made the thing go on 14 years.
“The total cost is now expected to reach £1.2billion, having previously been set at £500million. My view is that it won’t happen in the form envisaged and they should look at scaling it back and focus on the bypass sections around Omagh and Strabane.
“A figure of £80million is not an unreasonable sum of money for a project this size but it’s frustrating there’s nothing to show for it.”
A spokesperson for the DfI said considerable additional costs had been incurred by the legal challenges associated with the project.
A DfI spokesperson said: “The amount spent on some of the costs is consultant fees of £53.46million, legal fees of £300,000 and public inquiries at £620,000.
“The remaining expenditure relates to the payments made to contractors, ground investigations, service alterations, archaeology and land cost, together with other costs relating to public consultations.
“The engineering consultants provide technical and environmental professional expertise and resources to cover every aspect of the development of the A5 project – including traffic analysis, environmental impact studies and environmental statements, statutory processes, preliminary scheme design, management of final design, construction planning and ultimately supervision of the construction contracts on the ground.
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“Considerable additional work had to be carried out by the engineering consultants as a result of the three legal challenges to the scheme.”
Sinn Fein MLA for West Tyrone Nicola Brogan said it is important the project progresses soon in its current form.
She added: “The public will be frustrated that so much money has been spent and work still hasn’t started, but a lot it has come down to legal challenges which have caused delays.
“We will be continuing to pressure the Infrastructure Minister and th e Irish government to make sure that the project is progressed as soon as possible, and to keep the costs down as much as we can.”
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