M1 and M2 Hard Shoulder Bus Lanes (2018)

 

Status
Construction scheme (current)
Contractor
John Graham Construction Ltd
Where
To convert the citybound hard shoulders into peak-period bus lanes on:
M1 from Blaris (junction 8) to the existing bus lane at Ballyskeagh (between junctions 2 and 6).
M2 from Greencastle (junction 2) to Duncrue Street (junction 1B) with bus gates at j1 and j1B.
Total Length
6.0 miles / 9.7 km (3.5 miles / 5.6 km on M1, 2.5 miles / 3.2 km on M2)
Dates

1999 - M1 bus lane opened Stockman's Lane (j2) to Broadway (j1)

22 Aug 2006 - M1 bus lane opened Ballyskeagh to Blacks Road (j3)

19 Nov 2007 - M2 bus lane opened on approach to Sandyknowes (j4)
8 Nov 2016 - this scheme put out to tender
Early 2017 - work was expected to begin but tender was not awarded (to last 5 months)
Jun 2017 - review of design and funding underway. Construction uncertain.
9 Mar 2018 - scheme went out to tender
7 Jun 2018 - contract awarded to John Graham Construction Ltd

Cost
3.3m (for construction) - as of Mar 2018
(changed from 2.9m as of Nov 2016)
See Also

See below for maps


Click here to jump straight down to updates for this scheme.

Currently (as of June 2018) there are two peak-period, hard shoulder bus lanes on motorways in Northern Ireland. On the M1, there is a bus lane running from Ballyskeagh (between junctions 6 and 3, close to the River Lagan) to the terminus of the M1 at Broadway (with a short gap from Black's Road to Stockman's Lane). On the M2, there is a bus lane running from half way between Templepatrick and Sandyknowes (junctions 5 and 4) to Sandyknowes roundabout. (When this was introduced in 2007 it was to be a three year temporary measure during the Westlink upgrade, but in fact it was never removed.) There is another short stretch running from Sandyknowes roundabout to Hightown Road.

This scheme will see additional bus lanes built on both motorways. On the M1, the busway will be extended by approximately 5.6 km west from Ballyskeagh all the way through junctions 6 and 7 to junction 8 (Blaris) which is home to an existing park-and-ride facility. On the M2, a new section of busway will be constructed from the Greencastle junction (j2) to the offslip at Duncrue Street (junction 1B), a distance of approximately 3.2 km. There will thus be a gap on the M2 hill section (Hightown Road to Greencastle), which is likely because the hard shoulder on this section is not continuous due to restrictions at Bellevue Bridge and Greencastle interchange that result from the original 1960s design.

Both of the new M1 and M2 bus lanes will pass through existing junctions (junctions 6 and 7 on the M1 and junction 1 on the M1) - it is not yet clear how this will be achieved. One possibility is for buses to go up the offslip and back down the onslip. The only place this would not work is junction 7 on the M1 as there is no offslip at this junction. The maps below show the sections in question.

M1 BUS LANE
Purple shows existing bus lanes, while red shows the proposed new bus lanes.
(note route through Saintfield Road and Sprucefield interchanges is conjectural)

M2 BUS LANE
Purple shows existing bus lanes, while red shows the proposed new bus lanes.
(note route through Fortwilliam interchange is conjectural)

The two busways will require engineering work for two reasons. Firstly, historically hard shoulders tended not to be built to as high a standard as the main traffic lanes, and hence may need lifted and rebuilt in order to strengthem them. Secondly, the bus lanes will require new road layouts in places, both physically (kerbing) and in terms of lane markings.

Updates

14 Jun 2018: The tender for this scheme was awarded last week to Graham Construction - congratulations to them - although they also appear to have been the only company that submitted a tender. The tender value is approximately 3.3m, which is lower than the 3.9m estimated when it went out to tender, and not much higher than the failed tender process that paused the scheme back in 2016. I've marked the scheme as "underway" now that the tender has been awarded. There is no word on when construction is actually likely to begin, but the contractor is likely to want to take advantage of the summer weather and so I would expect to see work getting underway later in the summer, perhaps after the July break.

22 Mar 2018: The scheme finally went back out to tender on 9 March, with a duration of six months and an estimated construction value of 3.9m, which is 1m higher than the value quoted the last time the tender was issued in 2016. On that occasion the tenders received were higher than expected and so a contractor was not appointed. The scheme description this time round doesn't really sound any different, so I'm not sure what has changed to make it worth re-issuing the tenders. In a presentation to Belfast City Council in December a DFI employee said that in reviewing they design they "had considered the technology used in the smart motorways across the UK" without elaborating on what the means. Perhaps also - based on the higher cost being quioted this time - DFI have accepted the higher cost and re-evaluated the budget to allocate more money to the scheme. In any case, the overall lengths of proposed bus lanes are unchanged. Tenders like this normally take 3 to 5 months to be awarded, so we could see construction getting underway in the late summer or early autumn. The scheme seems to be being regarded as part and parcel of the York Street Interchange project, with the idea being to provide alternative ways to get into the city once that scheme gets underway and York Street gets even more congested than it is now.

30 Nov 2017: This scheme is not dead! Having gone through procurement this time last year, and then vanishing due to the tenders being higher than expected, the scheme went back to the design stage. It now appears that work has actively taken place during the year because DFI's October procurement plan update shows it as a future tender with an estimated date of award of March 2018 and an estimated construction cost of 3m. However, it has yet to appear on DFI's list of current tenders so it's possible this date may slip a bit. It will be interesting to see what changes have been incorporated into the design to bring the cost down since there's little scope for significant savings in a scheme like this, short of reducing the lengths of the proposed bus lanes.

10 Jul 2017: In the previous update in April I noted that having been put out to tender, this pair of schemes simply vanished. We now know why. According to DFI Roads' report to Lisburn and Castlereagh Council three weeks ago the tenders received were higher than anticipated and so the scheme was pulled. The report says: "A procurement process was completed in January 2017, although the tendered costs were significantly higher than expected and as a result the contract was not awarded. Currently a review of the procurement strategy and any alternative delivery of the scheme is underway, to determine if it can be procured in a more cost effective way, or with reduced requirements." In other words they're looking for ways of either getting more money, or reducing the design to save money. The wording doesn't sound particularly enthusiastic so it's possible we will hear nothing more of this scheme for a while.

14 Apr 2017: Something strange has happened to this scheme. It went out to tender in November 2016, but over the past month or two has completely vanished off the TransportNI procurement web site. No tender seems to have been awarded. This suggests that the scheme has got pulled out of the schedule for some reason. One possible reason is that York Street Interchange now looks to be on the long finger, and alleviating congestion during construction was one of the reasons for the M2 works. However that does not explain the M1 works and so there is still a mystery around what has happened here.

3 Dec 2016: The tender for the two busways was advertised on 8 November 2016. This implies that one contractor will be responsible for both schemes, and so work is likely to take place concurrently on both. Work is currently due to begin early in 2017. Work is scheduled to take 5 months to complete. In a Question for Written Answer (AQW 612/16-21) the Minister said that the M2 bus lane "would be a temporary traffic management measure associated with the proposed York Street Interchange scheme, to help alleviate traffic congestion by encouraging a modal shift to public transport for travel into Belfast at peak times during the 3 year construction period." Given that the same thing was said when the M2 bus lane was introduced at Sandyknowes in 2007, but it is still there today, I think we can assume that it the bus lane will be permanent despite this statement!