Westlink Home | Details of the Scheme | Problems and notes | Progress reports
This is a sub-page giving additional information on the Westlink upgrade.
Construction, which is due to begin in January 2006 and last for up to three years, will necessarily cause severe traffic disruption. Unfortunately there are no obvious diversionary roads and it seems that Roads Service are doing everything they can in the circumstances. Media reports say that people should allow an extra 30 minutes for journeys on the Westlink during the works. However, Roads Service have taken the following measures to try to minimise this potential impact:
- Encouraging people to use the A26 which links the M1 at junction 9 (Moira) to the M2 at junction 5 (Templepatrick) as an alternative to using the Westlink to go from M1 <-> M2.
- Encouraging people to use the B23 Hillhall Road which links the M1 at junction 6 (Saintfield Road) to the A55 Outer Ring at Belvour Park as an alternative for people heading to south and east Belfast from the M1. A series of roadwork schemes to improve the capacity of the Hillhall Road to serve this purpose began in summer 2005 and are all due to be completed by April 2006.
- Two traffic lanes will be open in each direction on the M1 and A12 from 6am-10pm Monday-Saturday and 11am-10pm on Sundays, although these may be narrow and subject to a speed limit. Some closures will be necessary, usually at night or weekends. Signs will give at least one week's notice of these closures to motorists.
- Roads Service have installed traffic cameras on the route to respond quickly to problems, broken-down vehicles, accidents etc to keep traffic flowing.
- Using special variable-message signs to give motorists advance notice of the scale of the delays on the stretch of road ahead.
- Introducing traffic lights to the Stockman's Lane roundabout on the M1 to improve its capacity.
- Rail services between Portadown and Belfast have been increased by 50% since June 2005. Update Feb 2006: In typical NIR fashion, the new timetable about to be released will see these trains substantially scaled back. Translink never fails to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
- The M1/Westlink bus lane will remain in operation throughout the works. Buses are thus a real alternative into the city.
- No access will be provided to Grosvenor Road from either direction while the underpass is being built here. The road will pass over the Westlink on a temporary bridge for the two years of construction.
- You can get regular e-mail notification of traffic issues related to the scheme by subscribing to the Roads Service "Westlink traffic alerts". Click here.
Problems with the scheme
There are many potential problems with the A12 Westlink upgrade scheme, two of which are listed here.
Firstly, as the entire route is to become free-flow (or almost free-flow) traffic will move much more quickly along the A12. At the south end this traffic will flow easily onto the M1 motorway. This may lead to increased congestion at the exits such as Black's Road and Lisburn as many more commuters arrive there in a shorter space of time. In a way, then, the scheme may simply shift traffic jams downstream. At the north end, the Westlink ends at traffic lights at York Street. With many more cars arriving here in a shorter time, traffic will quickly become gridlocked here at peak times. I predict that it will be necessary to construct an A12-M2 flyover within the next 10 to 20 years to solve this problem. In response to this latter criticism the head of the project, Roy Spiers, was quoted as saying "The reality is that I am where I am. I have to start somewhere and I have to stop somewhere. I would like to be a position where I could say 'Yes we'll go the whole way through'. What I am doing is removing two of the main bottlenecks on the route." (Belfast Newsletter, 28 Dec 2005). In BBC's "Politics Program" on 5 Feb 2006, a Roads Service spokeman is shown stating that the Westlink upgrade will only work for "five, ten to fifteen years" before further work is needed, probably at York Street. Planning for this therefore needs to begin now.
Secondly, the closure of northern access to and from Grosvenor Road when the project is completed will change the dynamic of the city centre. Traffic heading into town from the north frequently comes off at Grosvenor Road, but will now be forced onto Divis Street. This will substantially increase traffic levels at the lower Falls / Divis Street area and put much more traffic onto Millfield / College Avenue and may well reduce the perceived importance of the Grosvenor Road in people's eyes.
If anyone can correct or help with the details above, please contact me.