A6 Dualling - Randalstown (M22) to Castledawson

 

Status
Construction scheme (under construction)
Contractor
Graham/Farrans Joint Venture
Where
To upgrade the A6 from Randalstown to Toome, and from Toome to Castledawson to dual-carriageway (partly online, mostly offline). Existing Toome Bypass to remain as-is.
Total Length

6.8km (4.3 miles) M22 to Toome plus

5.4km (3.4 miles) Toome to Castledawson

Dates

Scheme announced as part of Regional Transport Plan 16 September 2003

A6 Toome Bypass (dual-carriageway) completed - March 2004

Preferred route announced 28 September 2005

Public inquiry held - November 2007; Departmental response to inquiry inspector's report - Autumn 2009

Revised junction designs completed - Jan 2011

Scheme put on hold until at least 2015 - 13 Jan 2011 / confirmed 14 Feb 2012
(changed from "2011" as of Dec 2010, "2011/12" as of Nov 09, "2011" as of Aug 08, and "late 2008" as of Apr 07)

Supplementary Public Inquiry for Bellshill/Annaghmore junction junction held - 13 Feb 2012
Inquiry Report rejects proposals for Bellshill/Annaghmore junction - 23 Jan 2013

Second revised Bellshill/Annaghmore junction designs submitted for planning approval - 5 Jul 2013
Planning granted for revised Bellshill/Annaghmore junction design - 3 Dec 2014
Construction tender process began - 28 Jul 2014; Tender awarded - 1 May 2015
Public Inquiry into Vesting Order for Bellshill/Annaghmore junction - 29 Sep 2015
Scheme given funding - 17 Dec 2015

Legal challenge received to Toome-Castledawson section - 27 Sep 2016; dismissed 27 Mar 2017

Appeal to Legal challenge - 15 Aug 2017; rejected - 19 Sep 2017
Construction was to begin - October 2016 (as of Aug 2016) - but delayed due to legal challenge

Construction to take three and a half years (as of Jan 2016; changed from 24 months as of June 2010)

Work on Randalstown to Toome and Moyola to Castledawson roundabout began - May 2017
Randalstown-Toome due to open "during 2019" (as of May 2017)
Toome-Castledawson due to open "early 2021" (as of May 2017)

Cost

160m (as of Aug 2016)
(changed from 150m as of June 2016; 120-140m as of Nov 2014; 100-120m as of Apr 2010; 100m as of Dec 2008; revised from 70m as of 2006, itself revised from 34m)

Photos / Map
See below for photos and maps.
See Also

M22 on this site

A6 Toome Bypass on this site

A31 Magherafelt Bypass on this site (also ends at Castledawson roundabout)

Official web site on scheme - TransportNI

Click here to jump straight down to scheme updates.

The A6 is single-carriageway from the end of the M22 at Randalstown, to Derry. The most notorious bottleneck, the village of Toome, received a dual-carriageway bypass in 2004. However the roads on each side are still single-carriageway. The purpose of this scheme is to dual approximately 12km of the A6 from the M22 to the start of the Toome Bypass, and from the end of the Toome Bypass as far as Castledawson. In keeping with recent schemes, the two new stretches of dual-carriageway will be of a high quality with flyover junctions and no breaks in the central reservation. Traffic levels on the route vary from 12,000 vehicles per day at Castledawson to 17,500 per day at the M22 end.

The existing Toome Bypass was to have been upgraded as part of the scheme with both roundabouts removed, and the Hillhead Road T-junction west of Toome would have been closed. As of late 2010 this decision has been reversed, so both roundabouts will remain (Roguery Road will be enlarged) although the Hillhead Road T-junction will still be closed. This is unfortunate and short-sighted as it means what is otherwise a continuous free-flowing road with grade separated junctions from Belfast to Castledawson will have two roundabouts in the middle.

Route Map

The map below was released to the press by the Roads Service in September 2005. It shows the western part of the scheme at the top, and the eastern portion at the bottom. The recently completed Toome Bypass has been added in black. Individual junctions are not shown.



The Bellshill Road / Annaghmore Road Controversy

The design of the scheme has been generally accepted with the exception of the connection between Bellshill Road and Annaghmore Road in Castledawson, which has (as of Jan 2013) twice been rejected at a Public Inquiry and is now being reconsidered a third time. The controversy has related to (a) the way in which locals will access the upgraded A6 from these two roads and (b) the impact of new connector roads on local residential and agricultural property. The maps below show the evolution of the proposals.

ABOVE: Original design proposed but rejected at 2007 Public Inquiry.

ABOVE: Revised design submitted at 2012 Public Inquiry but again rejected.
(You can see this map in more detail at the end of this document.)

ABOVE: Inspector's recommended design as of 2013.
(You can see this map in more detail at the end of this document.)

ABOVE: Roads Service's revised design as of June 2013, which is their refinement of the inspector's suggested design (compare to previous map). You can see this map in more detail here.

Background to the Scheme

The original grand motorway plan of 1964 would have seen the M22 extend from Antrim past Toome and terminating at Castledawson. (Londonderry traffic would have followed the M2 as far as Ballymoney and then taken the proposed M23 to the city). When this scheme got abandoned in 1975, the M22 had not even made it as far as Toome and it left the single-carriageway A6 as the most direct route to Londonderry. It has been in this state for the intervening 30 years with the narrow and twisty section from the M22 to Toome one of the poorest standard trunk roads in Northern Ireland.

Strip Junction Map

See also route map above. This is a strip map of the design that is being proposed as of 2016. The existing Toome Bypass is highlighted in yellow, which will remain in situ.


EAST

Begins as M22 motorway

2+2 lanes

RANDALSTOWN WEST

or ARTRESNAHAN

A6 Moneynick Road
(to Randalstown)

B? Moneynick Road

(existing A6)

 

7.0 km / 4.4 miles - 2+2 lanes

DRUMDERG

B? Moneynick Road

(existing A6)

 B18 Moneynick
Road

 (into Toome)

 
1.2 km / 0.7 miles - 2+2 lanes

ROGUERY ROAD



 Roguery Road


 The Toome Bridge

 


Roguery Road
(into Toome)

River Bann

 
0.7 km / 0.4 miles - 2+2 lanes
OLD BANN ROAD

Local farm access

(eastbound only)

Old Bann Road

(eastbound only)

 
 
0.3 km / 0.2 miles - 2+2 lanes
 

Local farm access

(eastbound only)

 

1.4 km / 0.9 miles - 2+2 lanes

THE CREAGH
Boylie Road 

 B? Hillhead Road

 Creagh Business Park

 B? Hillhead Road

 
1.6 km / 1.0 miles - 2+2 lanes
DEERPARK ROAD
Deerpark Road 
 Deerpark Road
 
1.3 km / 0.8 miles - 2+2 lanes
HILLHEAD ROAD

Hillhead Road

(into Castledawson)

 B? Hillhead Road

 (current A6)


2.0 km / 1.2 miles - 2+2 lanes

BELLSHILL ROAD  /

ANNAGHMORE ROAD

Linking to

Bellshill Road

Local access


Link to Annaghmore Road

 
1.2 km / 0.7 miles - 2+2 lanes
CASTLEDAWSON

A54 Magherafelt Rd

(into Castledawson)

 A31 Magherafelt Road

 (to Magherafelt)

 

WEST

Terminates as A6 towards Londonderry

Progress

14 Oct 2017: The scheme has now been underway for about 5 months, and there has been a lot of progress at some points. I have 6 photos to share this time, the first 3 of which are with thanks to the contractor Graham/Farrans and the second 3 of which are with thanks to John Toner, who took aerial photos from a drone. The first three pictures below were taken on the Randalstown-Toome stretch where work to date seems to be focused on major earthworks, in particular a very large excavation. I am not 100% sure whether this is a cutting or the road itself, or whether it is some kidn of 'borrow pit', but either way it looks to be at least 20 metres deep. The second set of images show works on the Castledawson Bypass at the western end of the scheme. This road only dates back to the mid 1990s but is being upgraded to dual-carriageway standard as part of the scheme. This includes a major junction with Bellshill Road which looks very advanced with most of the approach embankments now in place. Work appears to have begun on the foundations for the flyover at its centre. Work on the second bridge over the Moyola River (adjacent to the existing structure) is more advanced with work on the two abutments well underway. Working close to the River involves a lot of environmental constraints - for example, it appears that the contractor cannot operate machinery in the river itself, as would have happened in years gone by. Finally, a video has appeared on YouTube showing aerial views of a range of locations but showing the Castledawson Bypass around 3:00.


Heavy plant using a temporary access road on the A6 scheme between Randalstown and Castledawson c21 Sep 2017. This road has been made from rock covered with earth to allow machinery to access the various parts of the site. [Graham Farrans]

Excavation work underway between Randalstown and Castledawson in late September 2017. [Graham Farrans]

Very deep excavation underway about half way between Randalstown and Castledawson. This is either a deep cutting for the road, or a borrow pit (to get material to construct embankments elsewhere). c21 Sep 2017. [Graham Farrans]

Work underway on 1 Oct 2017 to build a second crossing of the River Moyola on the Castledawson Bypass near the western end of the scheme. As far as I am aware, the existing bridge will be re-used for the future eastbound carriageway. [John Toner]

Bellshill Road grade-separated junction on the Castledawson bypass taking shape on 1 Oct 2017, looking west. Both current T-junctions will be closed and replaced by a flyoer around the middle of this shot. On the left is a new embankment that will support a roundabout. The earth road at the bottom of the shot is a temporary access road. [John Toner]

The western terminus of the scheme at the Castledawson Roundabout, looking east on 1 Oct 2017. Two interesting things to see here - firstly the recently-compelted A31 Magherafelt Bypass is heading off to the right. Secondly, note the very wide area of earth to the right of the A6 approaching the roundabout in the centre of this shot. This embankment is only a couple of hundred feet long, but dates back to the construction of Castledawson Roundabout in the early 1970s and was this wide because it was intended to be the terminus of the M22 motorway, which was never completed to its intended terminus here. Part of it was re-used for the A6 Castledawson Bypass in 1992, but the new dual-carriageway will cover the remainder. [John Toner]

19 Sep 2017: Today saw the ruling on the appeal by environmentalist Chris Murphy to the judicial review that he lost in March. He was challenging the legality of the DFI's environmental assessments on the section of the road between Toome and Castledawson (the legally contested stretch being specifically the stretch from the western end of the Toome Bypass to Deerpark Road). In the event the judges dismissed all of Mr Murphy's points and ruled that the DFI had correctly complied with relevant environmental legislation. The summary judgement is available on the Courts Service web site here. Notably the judges expressed the view that a delay of several years between a project being approved and work commencing (as was the case here and which Mr Murphy felt necessitated a further assessment) is not unreasonable: "The Habitats Directive imposes no time constraint on the duration of an appropriate assessment and in the case of major infrastructural projects there is often a likelihood of some time lag between authorization and implementation of the project. DFI, for their part, immediately welcomed the ruling in their favour with a press release. Mr Murphy has the option of attempting to appeal to the Supreme Court and has indicated that this is an option he will consider.

In their press release DFI says "As a result of the judgement the Department will commence construction of the Toome to Moyola River section of the scheme which had been delayed due to the legal challenge". By way of background, DFI had previously agreed not to begin major works on the stretch from Toome to the Moyola River in Castledawson, so works undertaken to date have been restricted to the Randalstown to Toome stretch, and the bit west of the Moyola River. The map below illustrates the situation with the works already underway shown in dark blue. The ruling means that DFI are now free to begin work on the Toome to Moyola stretch. However, a complication is that the Environmental Statement imposes a restriction that major earthworks (note, not "all" works) cannot take place between Deerpark Road and Toome between late September and mid March. This is for environmental reasons and is not directly related to the legal challenge. I would define "major earthworks" to be anything that involves constructing the bed of the road itself, so I would consider embankments, cuttings or bridges to be "major earthworks". DFI have not said when they intend to start work, but having now successfully defended two legal challenges I would say they will be in no mood for further delay and so I would expect to see work begin on the Moyola River to Deerpark Road stretch within days. We are likely also to see minor works commencing on the contested Deerpark Road to Toome stretch in the coming weeks (eg vegetation clearance, fencing etc), but we will not see major earthworks until mid March due to the restrictions of the Environmental Statement. Again, the map below attemps to summarise this and help make sense of all these different stretches.


Status of the A6 dualling scheme as of 19 Sep 2017.

5 Sep 2017: Progress on the scheme seems to be going very well. This update by Farrans (one of the contractors) shows some closeup images of the work underway, including a deeper excavation - it's hard to tell from the image but this is either a cutting for the road itself, or else some kind of borrow pit for sourcing material. Either way good weather during the summer seems to have helped. Meanwhile, a court hearing took place on 15 August. This is an appeal by environmentalist Chris Murphy to the judicial review that he lost in March. He is challenging the section of the road between Toome and Castledawson. The judges reserved their judgement, which was then due to be given yesterday, but has apparently been delayed to sometime "later in the week". The substance of the appeal appears to be Mr Murphy's argument that the environmental assessments were out of date and did not take into account more recent considerations and environmental legislation. DFI Roads obviously defended their assessments vigorously. Originally the verdict was to have been given on the same day, so the decision to reserve judgement tells us that the verdict is not straightforward. This implies to me that Mr Murphy has at least got an arguable case. Regardless of the strong desire by many, especially in the North West, to have this road built, the judges will decide the case on the immediately relevant legal facts only. My (admittedly only superficially informed) impression of the case is that it could go either way. Both sides in the case do, of course, have options for further appeals (eg the Supreme Court or even the European Court) so whether DFI win or lose, this saga could be far from over. If, hypothetically, DFI were to lose then it would probably mean going back to square one in terms of route selection and environmental assessments which would add a period of years, rather than months, to the completion of the delayed section between Castledawson and Randalstown. Finally, the works have required a lane closure at the western end of the M22 which has caused significant tailbacks westbound in recent days. This is slightly puzzling as the road always went down from two lanes to one at the end of the M22, it is just the location that has changed. Perhaps someone in DFI Roads more familiar with the setup might be able to see if anything could be done to ease the merge as it is going to last several months.

For updates prior to September 2017 please see the archive.