A1-A2 Newry Southern Relief Road / Bypass


Construction scheme (future)
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

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)
Given a funding commitment as part of the Belfast City Deal - 2018

Belfast Region City Deal signed (which provides funding) - Dec 2021
Draft legal orders and Environmental Statement due to be published - early 2024

Public inquiry likely to happen - date not yet known
Earliest possible commencement of construction - 2028 (as of Aug 2023; changed from 2025-27 as of May 2021; 2023-25 as of Oct 2020)


£85m to £100m - as of 2018
(changed from £78-128m as of 2017; £100-211m as of 2009)
£93.4m of cost to be funded from the 2021 Belfast Region City Deal

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. 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. The preferred route was announced in 2018.


The graphic below shows the proposed route as of June 2019.

Map of Newry SRR 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 an 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.


8 May 2024: The main point of conversation about this road has been the decision by DFI civil servants in 2023 (when there was no Executive) to build a fixed bridge over the Newry Canal, which will block tall ships from passing under. In March, once the new Assembly was up and running, the DFI Minister announced that he was going to "review the decision taken... to have a 50m span fixed bridge over the Newry Ship Canal". At the end of April he gave his response – "I have now completed this review and can confirm that the decision for a 50m span fixed bridge remains unchanged.". DFI have said that an opening bridge would cost an extra £10m and also that having a shorter span (which would be needed to have an opening section) "adversely impacts on the scheduled monument of Newry Canal". The Minister also said that changing the plans at this stage would take extra time and he is keen to get the road built. My feeling is that the first reason is more likely to be the clincher, as the scheme is funded by the City Deal so in the current economic climate adding the cost of a lifting bridge could well be enough to kill the entire scheme through a funding shortfall. With a public inquiry yet to happen, however, I'd expect this debate to rumble on for some time yet.

6 Oct 2023: DFI Roads are going to be holding a public exhibition about the current status of the scheme later this month. The event is likely to be dominated by the decision (March 2023) to build a fixed low-level bridge over the Newry Canal. This has met local opposition due to the fact that it will block access to tall ships reaching Newry. DFI's position is restricted by the fact that the budget for the scheme is largely fixed by the City Deal funding, meaning that the scheme has insufficient funds to include a lifting bridge. So this event is a good opportunity for locals to express their views and also understand the various limitations on the scheme. Lack of an Executive seriously hinders any effort to acquire more funds for the scheme. More funds may even be necessary without a change to the design, due to construction inflation, so the whole situation is a bit of a headache for civil servants. Anyway, you can go and see the exhibition at Newry Leisure Centre on Cecil Street from 10am-8pm from Monday 16 to Thursday 19 October. However, DFI staff will only be present on the Thursday so if you want to engage with DFI staff you will need to go on that day. If you can't make the exhibition, but still want to provide your views, see the bottom of the press release.

18 Aug 2023: DFI Roads this week released a document showing how the current roads programme will be prioritised in the current economic and legislative climate, where DFI is now required to de-carbonise transport. The Newry SRR has remained on the current programme, principally because it has a confirmed funding allocation of £93.4m from the Belfast Region City Deal. This funding is only sufficient to build a fixed bridge over the Newry Canal, so if the local pressure to build a moveable pressure was to result in a design change, new funding would need to be identified in order to proceed. The next stage is the publication of draft legal documents (needed to build a new road and bridge) and an Environmental Statement (setting out DFI's justification for the road). These are expected in "early" 2024. These would be put out for public consultation and would almost certainly then lead to a public inquiry, a process which can take maybe 18 months. This would be followed by DFI taking time to consider the outcome and, if approved, would then lead to a procurement process of perhaps a year. Therefore, as DFI state, the earliest possible start year for construction would be 2028. (As an aside, it has occurred to me that providing this new road link from the A1 at Ellisholding Road to the A2 Warrenpoint Road would remove one of the last arguments against giving the Newry Bypass motorway status to mirror its extension in the Republic of Ireland. The lack of a reasonable quality route for non-motorway traffic from Newry to the old Dublin Road at Ellisholding Road was previously given as an argument against doing this. This new road would create such a link that entirely uses A-class roads. The Newry Bypass was otherwise built to full motorway standard, so why not? Food for thought.)

28 Apr 2023: Newry.ie, a Newry-based social enterprise, has published an interesting piece which explores what has been going on between the council and DFI about the question of a fixed versus moving bridge to carry the NSRR over the Newry Canal. In early March DFI decided to go with the "fixed" option. The piece in Newry.ie suggests that more has been going on behind the scenes to inform this decision, namely that the council's own consultants may have recommended that in the future tall ships should be accommodated downstream at Warrenpoint, while the Albert Basin in Newry would be reserved for smaller craft without masts. That's ultimately a matter for the council to decide, but if so it does render the design of the nearby Narrow Water Bridge somewhat redundant if there is no longer a plan to allow tall ships to sail to Newry. Narrow Water Bridge is to be built with an opening section. Construction on that bridge is due to begin within the next twelve months. With thanks to Patrick McGivern for the heads-up.

10 Mar 2023: DFI published a press release last week stating that they had decided to adopt a non-opening bridge for the crossing of the Newry canal and river on this scheme - see images below. This will be a controversial choice, given that local opinion has been generally in favour of an opening bridge that would not impede tall ships coming up to Newry, and given that the Narrow Water Bridge which is to be built a few miles downstream will be an opening bridge. The proposed bridge would have a clearance of 12 metres. The decision is not final (this is a “preferred” option) as the scheme would still need to go through a public inquiry where all of this would be aired.

The press release notes that (as we already knew) the project has a funding allocation from the Belfast City Deal of £93.4m. Given that the moveable bridge has an additional whole-life cost of £18-32m over and above the cost of a fixed bridge, I think this funding source explains their preference for a fixed bridge. The funding allocated isn’t sufficient for a moveable bridge. The economic case for the fixed bridge is pretty solid, but it could be that public opinion regards other considerations to have weight too. The only way a moveable bridge can be built is if “someone else” provides the additional funding. The obvious source would be the Department for Infrastructure, which would require the approval of both a local Infrastructure Minister and a local Executive. So a return to power-sharing seems to me to be the only way that a moveable bridge will be provided. This announcement came unexpectedly during the week that the new UK-EU agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol was announced, and I can’t help but wonder if they are linked, especially given how much the “non-opening” aspect of the choice was emphasised in the press release. Is it perhaps an attempt to give local politicians a reason to get back into government? Who knows.

DFI mockup of the proposed Southern Relief Road (foreground) and a fixed bridge over the Newry canal and river.

DFI mockup of how the bridge would look in closeup. With a 12 metre clearance it would still be a tall structure.

10 Aug 2022: DFI recently published the "first day briefing" that was given to the DFI Minister John O'Dowd when he entered his post in May 2022. The briefing for this scheme focuses on the controversy about the fixed vs lifting bridge over the Newry river (see previous update). It notes that the additional whole-life cost of a moveable bridge (60 years) would be £18-32m. In contrast, research commissioned by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council suggests that the loss to the economy of a fixed bridge over the same timeframe would be less than £200k. It is also worth noting that the funding given to the road in the Belfast Region City Deal is only sufficient for a fixed bridge, so if a moveable bridge was chosen the additional money required would have to be provided by the Executive which (as well as not currently in existence) is facing considerable funding pressures. Economically, the case for a fixed bridge is rock solid. It remains to be seen whether other factors will be enough to over-ride these facts.

13 Feb 2022: A quick update to note this news article from January which reports continued disagreement locally about the preferred design of a fixed bridge over the Newry river. Peter Maxwell, of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland is quoted as saying "It has to be an opening bridge unless you want to see [Albert] basin [in Newry] completely naked with no boats in it at all." James McArevey, of the Newry Maritime Association said "We realise the road is needed. If it does go ahead and it isn't a lifting bridge, we would suggest a compromise that the tall ships could be accommodated south of the bridge." Because the scheme has not yet had a public inquiry, and it's virtually certain that it will, there is still an opportunity for all of this to be aired an examined. The outgoing DFI Minister has previously indicated an openness to considering different options for the bridge even at this stage.

16 Jan 2022: The Belfast Region City Deal was signed on 17 December 2021. This is significant because this is the source of the funding for the Newry Southern Relief Road (though it hasn't actually been provided yet), a project whose future now seems secure. This is unusual among road schemes which normally clear their planning hurdles before funding is allocated for construction. The Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland web site still shows the procurement process to get underway between Dec 2023 and Sep 2024, with construction estimated to take place from March 2025 to September 2027, i.e. a construction period of two-and-a-half years. Meanwhile, the project is still in the planning stages with a public inquiry likely to be needed at some point. Given that a public inquiry process can take a year or more to complete, it would need to take place soon for the timescale above to be achieved. The debate between a fixed bridge and a moving bridge over the Newry canal is still ongoing, but nothing further has been said about this.

5 May 2021: Local media is reporting unease within Newry, Mourne and Down Council about DFI's preferred option for a fixed bridge to carry the Newry Southern Relief Road over the Newry Canal, on the grounds that such a bridge would limit maritime traffic on the canal. DFI have not committed to a particular design, with a fixed bridge being their "preference" at this time. A high-level bridge or a "lifting" bridge are both options, though they would cost substantially more than the fixed low-level bridge. Meanwhile, the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland shows the anticipated timescale for the scheme has slipped substantially, with the tender process now estimated to begin by December 2023, 18 months later than was anticipated last autumn (see previous update). This would mean construction is now planned for the period from March 2025 to September 2027. Given that it is being funded by the Belfast City Deal, such a substantial slippage implies that the funding isn't expected to be released by the City Deal authorities for about three years.

29 Oct 2020: At a DFI Weekly Business Review Meeting four weeks ago, it was noted that DFI has been instructed (presumably by the Minister) to "prepare a paper on options for taking forward [the] Newry Southern Relief Road...". This ties in with the fact that the road is to be funded through the Belfast City Deal and suggests that DFI is actively planning a strategy for construction. The Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland is still listing the scheme as a future contract, but the start of the tender process has slipped slightly from "late 2021" to the quarter ending "June 2022" with construction now planned for the period from September 2023 to December 2025.

12 Jun 2020: The DFI Minister announced her budget for the next year, which allocated money to the Executive's flagship projects (A5, A6 and Belfast Transport Hub). She followed this up today with a press release clarifying that she had approved funding for the continuation of planning of several planned road schemes, including the Newry Southern Relief Road, which is due to be funded from the Belfast City deal. This indicates that work on the scheme will be ongoing. There has been no further public announcements on progress since December 2019 (see previous update). However, minutes of DFI Board meeting on 16 Dec 2019, recently published, suggest that the Department for Communities has raised concerns about the proposal for a fixed bridge over the Newry Canal (rather than a high bridge or a moveable bridge which would allow all shipping to pass unhindered). The minutes state that "DfC had raised an issue in relation to the construction of a fixed bridge on this scheme and that this may require discussion at Permanent Secretary level." This is likely to be one of the main points that comes up in any future public inquiry.

7 Jan 2020: Just before Christmas DFI published a summary of the feedback that they received at the public exhibition of June 2019. We need to give the caveat that the people giving feedback constituted a self-selecting sample (i.e., they were those most motivated to give feedback), and therefore may or may not be representative of more general opinions in the local area. However, it is still worth pausing to look at. The feedback showed that the two factors deemed to be of greatest importance by the public were (1) reducing traffic congestion in Newry and (2) minimising the impact on the environment. Interestingly, the two factors deemed to be of least importance by the public were (1) achieving value for money and (2) ensuring that shipping can still pass along the Newry Canal. The second one is relevant in that the proposed design would involve a fixed, low-level bridge which would prevent taller vessels passing upstream of the bridge. DFI did clarify this by adding that, despite coming low overall in terms of public priority, "the navigation of the canal was the issue most highlighted as a barrier to support of the scheme". The only other significant issue that emerged from the consultation was the access arrangements for Loughway Business Park and Greenbank Industrial Estate. (The new road would involve re-routing the access road that runs through the industrial estate, potentially isolating the southern end from the remainder.) Overall, 53% of respondents were in favour of the scheme and 34% opposed. The scheme received a funding commitment through the Belfast City Deal in 2018, but this money has yet to appear. At this point in time, the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland web site estimates that the scheme will go out to tender in late 2021, with construction to take place in the period 2023-25. These timescales are, however, tentative.

26 Jun 2019: DFI Roads ran a public exhibition on this scheme today and will hold it again tomorrow (27th) at the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre. You can see the leaflet that was given out here. The purpose of the exhibition seems to be to gauge public opinion on what would certainly be a beneficial scheme in transport terms, but also an expensive one (c£100m) with a lot of challenges. DFI have actually included a statement to this effect in the public exhibition, which is unusual but also an acknowledgement that the scheme will not be easy and will have an environmental cost. For example, it is tricky in engineering terms, will be steep in places, will cross the Newry Canal and will impact on an AONB, an SLNCI and an area of woodland. DFI say:

The preferred route would encounter numerous natural and built constraints that the design must negotiate or mitigate to enable the scheme to proceed. These include:
- Land and Property;
- Newry River and Ship Canal (Scheduled Monument);
- Gradient (crossing Fathom Mountain) and terrain;
- Ring Of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB); - Sites of Local Nature Conservation Importance (SLNCI); and - Long-Established Woodland (Benson’s Glen).

DFI will produce a benefit/cost analysis which will likely show that the scheme would bring economic benefits. After that, the balance of public opinion in the Newry area, whether it is pro- or anti- this scheme, which will probably influence whether and how things proceed.

In terms of the design itself, I have included a screenshot of the emerging design at the top of this page. Beginning on the A1, south-facing sliproads will be provided at Ellisholding Road to match the existing north-facing sliproads and provide full access. The road follows the old Dublin Road for a short distance, before turning sharply east via a roundabout. It goes straight for a short distance, before heading steeply down hill on a curve, which will require a significant embankment. The steep incline means that a climbing lane will be provided in the uphill direction. It will then terminate at a roundabout above Fathom Line before crossing Fathom Line, the canal and the Newry River on a bridge to terminate on the existing A2 Warrenpoint Road at another roundabout.

24 Mar 2019: The BBC reported last week that one of the issues for the proposed route of this scheme has been solved. The terminus of the road on the A2 Warrenpoint Road requires running through a GAA pitch (Gerry Brown Park), and the owners have now agreed to vacate the site. The scheme has yet to go to a public inquiry but, if it does, one of the controversial issues is likely to be the clearance over the river. DFI's current plan shows a bridge about ten metres above the river, but the tall ships that sometimes go to the city need 35 metres of clearance. DFI estimate that an opening bridge is likely to add about £25m to the cost of the £100m scheme, which would be a substantial extra outlay. At the same time, a fixed bridge would limit sailing on the river. The scheme was given a funding committment as part of Belfast's City Deal at the end of 2018. However, the money hasn't yet been allocated and in any case we're still a minimum of two years away from construction due to the statutory processes that still have to happen. This is one of the most technically challenging schemes undertaken in Northern Ireland in recent years, combining steep terrain, environmentally sensitive areas, navigable rivers, geologic instability, woodland and highly constrained route corridors.

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 present 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 €1.35million (£1.2million) in European Union funding through the Connecting Europe Facility for ongoing 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.

Estimated Cost
Benefit/Cost Ratio

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 report’s 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.