A1-A2 Newry Southern Relief Road / Bypass

 

Status
Construction scheme (future)
Where
To connect the A1 Newry Bypass directly to the A2 Warrenpoint Road, around the south side of the city
Total Length
Approx 1.5 miles / 2.4km depending on route chosen
Dates

Included in draft "Banbridge Newry & Mourne Area Plan 2015" - August 2006

Feasibility study published - August 2009

Scheme moved to forward planning schedule - 28 November 2014
Consultant appointed to produce Stage 1 Report - March 2015

Stage 1 Scheme Assessment Report published - 15 June 2017

Public consultation held - 14 & 15 November 2017

Preferred route announced - 3 October 2018
Statutory Orders to be published (presumably in draft form) - 2019 (as of Jan 2017)
Earliest date of commencement of construction - 2024 (as of Nov 2017)

Cost

£78m to £128m depending on route chosen - as of 2017
(changed from £100-211m as of 2009)

Photos
None as yet - please contact me if you have any to contribute.
See Also

General area map - Google Maps

A1 Newry Bypass scheme - on this site

A2 Warrenpoint Road - on this site

Banbridge Newry & Mourne Area Plan 2015 - Planning Service

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

The arterial A1 runs around the western side of Newry city and, as of 2009, is being upgraded to dual-carriageway. Another dual-carriageway, the A2 Warrenpoint Road, runs east to Warrenpoint harbour from Newry. However, despite being only a mile apart, on opposite banks of the river, the only way to go between them is to drive right into the centre of the city. Local politicians have long called for a southern relief road to link them up, and this proposal was included in the draft "Banbridge Newry & Mourne Area Plan 2015" published in August 2006, along with a suggested route corridor. A feasibility study was published in August 2009 which found that the road should be built, but also noted the proposed route was not an efficient or easy one and suggested three other routes which were both cheaper and easier to build. A Stage 1 assessment report was published in 2017 and suggested three routes for further study. A Stage 2 assessment process is underway (as of June 2017).

Route

The 2017 Stage 1 Scheme Assessment Report suggested three possible corridors - known as 4A (red), 4B (orange) and 5 (purple). Routes 4A and 4B are identical except for the location of the bridge over the Newry River.

Previous Proposals

The 2009 Feasibility Report did not carry out thean extensive study into routes, but did note that the original "blue" route proposed in 2006 (estimated cost 2009 £178-186m) "includes some significant challenges, including proximity to the existing Dromalane Quarry and the provision of suitable access arrangements onto the A1...". They proposed three further routes:

  • The Greenbank Corridor, which ran from either the Ellisholding Road junction on the A1 or the Cloghogue junction on the A1 and ran north east to the existing roundabout on the A2 quite close to the city centre. Estimated cost in 2009 was £104-124m.
  • The Low-Medium Level Corridor, which ran from Ellisholding Road junction on the A1 south-east across a low-level bridge to the A2 Warrenpoint Road. Estimated cost in 2009 was £100-132m.
  • The High Level Corridor, which was similar to the Low-Medium Level Corridor except that the bridge was higher above water level and swung inland to return to ground level. Estimated cost in 2009 was £211m, the most expensive of the three.

All three of these options would have required the addition of south-facing sliproads at the existing Ellisholding Road grade separated junction on the A1.

Updates

6 Oct 2018: Last week DFI announced the preferred route for this road. This follows a public consultation 11 months ago at which three proposed routes were presented to the public. These were routes 4A (red in the map above), 4B (orange) and 5 (purple). Last November I commented that route 5 (purple on the map above) was the clear favourite as it's both the cheapest and the most cost effective, and so it has proved as DFI have selected route 5 as their preferred route. So this means that, as shown on the map above in purple, the new road will begin on the current A1 at Ellisholding Road - which will gain south-facing sliproads - run along the old A1 for a short distance north to a new roundabout, after which it will head downhill towards the Newry River and canal following an S-shaped route and then cross the river on a bridge to the existing A2 Warrenpoint Road. A short link road will connect the bridge to the Fathom Line. DFI have pledged that "a series of local exhibitions and information events will be held over the coming months" so we shall look forward to those. Assuming no difficulties, DFI will now produce a detailed Environmental Statement (which sets out the case for building the road and the impact it will have) and draft versions of the legal orders needed. After that the normal procedure is a public inquiry. So we're still a minimum of two years away from having an approved scheme ready for tendering, and at that point proceeding further will depend on the availablility of funding which has not currently been allocated. A final point - choosing this route rules out any possiblity of this scheme being combined with the Narrow Water Bridge proposal. DFI's preferred route makes more sense from the viewpoint of Newry as a city than a route as far south as Narrow Water, but does mean Narrow Water Bridge needs to be a separate scheme.

24 May 2018: DFI have just released a copy of a presentation that was recently given on the progress of the scheme. It doesn't say much that we didn't already know, but it does provide a good summary of where we are now. Notably, the presentation stresses that the earliest  date for commencement is 2024. This is unusual as DFI are usually very retiscent to quote dates (because they're nearly always optimistic) so all I would say on that is that I would read this as the earliest date (fair wind etc) rather than the most likely date. The scheme is extremely challenging from an engineering perspective, combining almost every possible complication including steep inclines, geologically unstable land, old quarries, the need to bridge a navigable river and canal, proximity to an ASSI and an ancient woodland, and a range of listed buildings and ancient monuments. I also have to correct a rather embarrassing mistake I made a year ago, but since I sometimes point out errors made by DFI I feel it's only fair to hold my hands up when I do the same. In my June 2017 update below I said that route 4B "coincides with the location of the separate Narrow Water Bridge proposal". I don't know why I wrote that, because it is nonsense! It's actually about 1km upstream of the proposed site of Narrow Water Bridge. So while the point still stands (ie, that option 4B could negate the need for Narrow Water Bridge) I was wrong to say that they were at the same location. So sorry about that! I'll try to up my game.

5 Nov 2017: Design work seems to be continuing on this scheme, which had strong backing from the former Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard prior to the collapse of the Executive earlier this year. The Scheme 1 assessmeny report was published in June and there is now to be a public consultation at the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre, 1A Bank Parade, Newry, between 10.00 am and 9.00 pm on the 14 and 15 November 2017. This is likely to be a consultation on the three route options published in June, rather than telling us anything new. It is, however, an opportunity for the public to have their say and give feedback. The scheme has also recently been given Ä1.35million (£1.2million) in European Union funding through the Connecting Europe Facility for ongoign design work. This Achilles heel of this scheme has always been its huge cost, but during planning the cost estimates have actually fallen (rare for road schemes in Northern Ireland) from £100-211m in 2009 to £78-128m in 2017. This is likely to be because the original routes went over extremely challenging ground, whereas more recent work has identified better options. At the minute Route 5 (purple on the map above) is the clear favourite as it's both the cheapest and the most cost effective. However, the presence nearby of the proposed Narrow Water Bridge complicates things as there is still the option of marrying the two together, which could be accomplished under Route 4B. So the question becomes - would combining the two schemes give you a result where (a) both schemes end up compromising their objectives, or (b) the two schemes benefit each other and everyone is a winner. That question can only be settled by detailed analysis of potential journeys so is currently open.

25 Jun 2017: The Stage 1 Scheme Assessment Report, which has been in progress since 2015, was published on 15 June and can be downloaded here. A Stage 1 assessment looks at a proposed road scheme and examines the various routes it could take, and concludes by narrowing it down to two or three route corridors that are to be taken forward for more detailed analysis. So that's what has just happened. You may recall that in 2009 four corridors were suggested, known as the "Greenbank", "Low-Medium" and "High-Level" corridors, along with the original 2006 corridor. The Stage 1 analysis indicated that the Greenbank corridor and the 2006 corridor are both geologically unstable and hence should be rejected. The report recommended three route corridors, known as Route 4A, Route 4B and Route 5. Possible lines for the road within these corridors are shown on the Google map further up this page (though note that these are indicative only). Routes 4A and 4B are identical except for the location of the bridge over the Newry River. This is important because the second (certainly deliberately) coincides is close to the location of the separate Narrow Water Bridge proposal, and Route 4B therefore presents an opportunity to "kill two birds with the one stone" by providing Narrow Water Bridge as part of the Newry Southern Relief Road. At the western end, all three routes terminate at the Ellisholding Road junction on the A1. In all cases, the design requires the provision of new south-facing sliproads at this junction, which is currently only accessible to/from the north. The report also gives some predictions of the construction cost and hence benefit/cost ratio of rach route. In the case of the benefit/cost ratio, any value above 1 means the scheme makes economic sense, and the higher the better. The report also looked at things like environemtnal impact ("slight adverse" in all three cases), impact on traffic flow, accessibility of the South Down area and many other things not outlined here.

Route
Estimated Cost
Benefit/Cost Ratio
 4A
£128m
1.491
 4B
£118m
1.859
 5
£78m
2.211

The conclusion is that Route 5 should be preferred because it is considerably cheaper than either Route 4 option, and has a higher benefit-cost benefit. However they also recommend that Routes 4A and 4B be considered at Stage 2. One reason to do this is the Narrow Water Bridge project because if Route 5 were chosen, Narrow Water Bridge may still get built because Narrow Water so far away from the bridge proposed for Route 5 that it wouldn't really benefit the Omeath area, one of the reasons Louth County Council are so keen on it. The cost of Narrow Water is unknown, but say it was £30m, then the true cost of Route 5 + Narrow Water would be £108, making the total cost of the combination fairly similar to Route 4B. There would also be a case for asking the Irish government to make a contribution to such a scheme if it meant TransportNI providing Narrow Water Bridge. I would say, therefore, that Routes 4B and 5 are both looking like good options at this point. Work will now begin on a Stage 2 report which will recommend a preferred route.

28 Jan 2017: In a press release issued on 16 January, the outgoing DFI Minister stressed his committment to this scheme. The nearby Narrow Water Bridge scheme is a particularly prominent scheme, and was listed in the 2009 "Fresh Start" Agreement, but it has ovbious overlaps with this scheme since both involve bridging the Newry river, albeit at different points. So it seems that the two schemes are being considered as a pair, and could even end up beign combined. For now, however, they are separate schemes. The Minister said he "has instructed officials to take forward planning and development work on the Newry Southern Relief Road to allow the introduction of the Statutory Orders by 2019". Now, the scheme had already been moved to the forward planning shcedule in November 2014, but the target date of 2019 for Statutory Orders is new. The "Statutory Orders" are initially published in draft form and are usually subject to a public inquiry. Once it has passed the Inquiry (assuming it does) and is likely to get funding, the orders are then made properly. It's unclear from the press release which is meant, but realistically it is more likely to be the former. So by that reckoning we could expect a final route to have been announced by 2019 with a public inquiry likely to follow sometime after that. The Achilles Heel of this project is its huge unit cost, which is a consequence of the very difficult terrain. Even the cheapest option is over £100m which is very high for a road that would only be 1.5 miles long. By comparison, the 4 mile A31 Magherafelt Bypass cost only £45m. The cost/benefit analysis for the Newry Southern Relief Road will thus be quite challenging. The DFI would need to get the cost of the scheme down as low as possible, which would mean a low-level bridge over the Newry river.

3 May 2015: According to the minutes of a TransportNI Board meeting held on 28 November 2014, but just published, this scheme has been moved to the Forward Planning Schedule (and indeed it duly appears in the FPS list). The significance of this change is that schemes in the FPS are being actively planned, whereas before now the scheme was merely a suggestion, the only work being a feasibility study completed in 2009. Now that it is in the FPS it means that the planners will look at it in more detail. This does not in itself guarantee that it will be built, but it does mean that it has entered a more formal phase of planning. So the DRD have now said that a "Stage 1 Preliminary Options Scheme Assessment" has begun. This normally results in a range of options with cost estimates and a cost/benefit analysis of each one. There is no indication of when this might be published, but it could take a couple of years depending on the resources allocated to the task.

23 Nov 2014: Supporters of the nearby Narrow Water Bridge proposal have set up a web site here and their aim appears to be to continue to lobby for the provision of the bridge, whose construction fell through this time last year due to inaccurate cost estimates. The text on the main page implies that they are suggesting that that scheme be combined with the Southern Relief Road. The idea may be that the Southern Relief Road could start on the A1 further south than currently planned, close to the RoI border, and then cross the Newry River at Narrow Water via the proposed Narrow Water Bridge. This would require a short stretch of the road to be located in County Louth, so it would introduce a cross-border element. The expense of this scheme as it currently stands (anywhere from £100m-£211m) means that it is a low priority for the DRD, but this idea of linking it to Narrow Water and using a more southerly approach route is certainly worth looking into since it would require only one bridge to be built to achieve the aims of both proposals. With thanks to Paul Sloan for letting me know about the new web site.

22 April 2012: The Minister was asked about progress on this scheme via three Questions for Written Answer in the Assembly two weeks ago. He said that Roads Service are currently "undertaking further environmental and engineering assessments" and that this work will be completed in mid/late 2012. He added that this would inform the selection of the preferred route, but it sounds as if this could be after the date mentioned. He confirmed that so far Roads Service have spent just under £930,000 on planning for this scheme. However, he also stressed that the scheme has not, and never has been, given a definite go ahead, and that therefore there is no timescale for construction.

26 Sep 2009: The Feasibility Report into the scheme was published in August 2009, and a press release issued five days ago. The report showed significant benefits to proceeding with the scheme and proposed four alternative route corridors. The report however recommended against the route proposed in 2006, for cost and engineering reasons, instead suggesting three alternatives as shown on the map above. The cost estimates vary widely from £100m to £211m depending on the option chosen. On the basis of the report the Regional Development Minister has "asked Roads Service to proceed with further environmental and engineering assessments and to engage in a wider consultation process, considered necessary to identify a preferred corridor for the Newry Southern Relief Road." There are still no firm plans to proceed with the scheme which, if it does happen, is unlikely to happen in the near future and perhaps not for ten years. It is also interesting to note that the feasibility report comments that constructing this scheme, at least if the Low-Medium Level Corridor is chosen, could render the proposed Narrow Water Bridge project redundant.

23 May 2009: According to the Minister of Regional Development (during a question and answer session in Stormont a couple of weeks ago) the feasibility study into the Newry Southern Relief Road has now been completed, but Roads Service want to do additional work "developing its findings" before releasing it publicly. He said "The project is important. Roads Service and the consultants it has engaged have undertaken significant assessment work." and "We hope to be in a position to present the reportís findings soon". The first of these comments suggests that the feasibility study was favourable towards the road's construction, but we shall have to wait and see.