A2 Marine Highway, Carrickfergus - narrowing


Construction scheme (proposed)
To reduce the width of the four-lane Marine Highway in Carrickfergus to two lanes in order to reduce severance between the town and its waterfront.
Total Length
1.5 km / 0.9 miles

A2 Marine Highway constructed ca. 1964

Proposal to reduce width - July 2010

No firm plans to proceed with the scheme - as of Dec 2010

£2.4m (as of July 2010)
See below
See Also

General area map - Google Maps

Carrickfergus Masterplan - see Appendix C in particular

Carrickfergus is famous for its castle, which sits on the shore. It is separated from the rest of the town by the A2 Marine Highway which is an important road connecting the eastern part of the town, Whitehead and Islandmagee to Belfast. The Marine Highway was built around 1964 to relieve the town centre (which hitherto carried all through traffic) and carries two lanes of traffic in each direction. This road has been controversial. On the one hand, the road causes a high degree of severance between the town centre and its waterfront. A pedestrian underpass was provided towards the castle but remains unpopular. On the other hand, the narrow streets of the town centre would have been destroyed without the Marine Highway. Indeed, the road has been praised by the Royal Irish Academy for having "helped to maintain the historic core of Carrickfergus in the face of commercial pressures for redevelopment" (Irish Historic Towns Atlas, 1986).

In July 2010 the Department for Social Development released a "Carrickfergus Masterplan" which, along with a range of measures, proposed a number of changes to the Marine Highway to reduce its impact. The masterplan recognises that this is both "one of the most fundamental, and one of the most controversial, measures proposed in the masterplan". Specifically it proposes:

  • To reduce the width of the road from two lanes to one lane in each direction between the main "Irish Gate" roundabout and Victoria Road to the east (the A2 beyond Victoria Road is already one lane each way).
  • Maintain the existing 4 lanes west of the "Irish Gate" roundabout, ie towards Belfast.
  • Replacement of the "Irish Gate" roundabout with traffic lights, and closure of access to the harbour area from here.
  • Provision of a new access to the harbour at Davy's Street here.
  • Provision of traffic signals at the Rogers Quay junction here.
  • They also encourage the completion of the Carrickfergus Spine Road.

The map below shows the stretch of Marine Highway that it is proposed to reduce. More detailed plans can be found in Appendix C of the Masterplan - see link at top of this page.

Importantly, the consultants advise that the land freed up by the width reduction be used for other transport purposes (wider footpaths, cycle lanes, bus laybys etc) rather than for construction so that the land is still available for changing transport needs in the years to come. The cost of the first element of the scheme (reducing the width of Marine Highway) is estimated at £2.4m and is regarded in the document as a high priority.


Whether any of these changes will actually happen is not clear as the plan at this stage is aspirational - it does not set out any timetable for construction or outline a source of funds. Roads Service would have to be responsible for carrying out the work, but they would be unlikely to pay for the scheme. However I do believe they would be sympathetic to it. This section of Marine Highway is not as heavily trafficked as the portion on the Belfast side of the "Irish Gate" roundabout (which operates at or above capacity at peak times). Currently traffic levels on this stretch are around 16,000 vehicles per day. While high as roads go, this is not unusual in terms of an urban road. Since most congestion here is caused by traffic tailing back at junctions, rather than the number of lanes, my gut feeling is that with good junction design the road probably could take the reduction to one lane each way without a major impact on traffic flow. It would be vitally important to design the western end to widen out to two lanes on the approach to the "Irish Gate" roundabout to avoid creating a bottleneck.  It would also be important to project traffic flow into the future to ensure that the reduced capacity would not cause problems a few years down the line. The consultants calculate that the reduced road would flow at 76% of capacity at current traffic levels.

The proposed access point to the harbour at Davy's Street seems rather pointless, given that it lies just a few hundred metres from Rogers Quay which provides an existing and perfectly adequate access point. Creating another access at Davy's Street would add another unnecessary congestion point on an already busy road.

With thanks to Andrew McKeever for help with dating the Marine Highway.


Marine Highway at Carrickfergus Castle - Google Streetview

Marine Highway near Victoria Road - Google Streetview