Westlink & M1 upgrade Belfast -
Past Progress Reports Jan-Nov 2006

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This is a sub-page giving additional information on the Westlink upgrade.

This page is an archive of old progress reports.

For the final progress reports, after late July 2008, click here.

For the progress reports from February 2008 to early July 2008, click here.

For the progress reports from October 2007 to February 2008, click here.

For the progress reports from July 2007 to September 2007, click here.

For the progress reports from March 2007 to June 2007, click here.

For the progress reports from December 2006 to February 2007, click here.

20 November 2006

With work on diverting the Blackstaff river continuing at Broadway, the wall of the original Blackstaff channel just to the west of the roundabout has been deliberately severed to allow the new Clowney culvert to (somewhat clumsily) pour into it. With the culvert south of here still under construction work now appears to have started on part of the underpass itself. Piling has begun on the eastern (Boucher) side of the M1 motorway and as a consequence the M1 has been shifted slightly westwards here. However this represents only one wall of one end of the new underpass and work has not even started on the solid slab that will form the centre of the new roundabout on top of the underpass. Meanwhile, at Stockman's Lane the foundations are now in place for all four bridge abutments on the future citybound bridges with the walls starting to rise. The citybound onslip is currently reduced to one lane while the side of the abutment is built. Since the new M1 bridges will be one lane wider than the old ones, the sliproads will either (a) have steeper grass banks (b) have vertical concrete walls or (c) be shifted further out from the motorway. It is unclear at this stage which option is being followed.

13 November 2006

Just to correct some more inaccurate reporting. The Andersonstown News today reported that the Westlink roadworks are to be halted for Christmas. This is untrue - the Westlink scheme is classed as "works which are unavoidable" and are therefore excluded from the Christmas roadworks embargo announced on 9 November which takes effect for the month of December.

12 November 2006

Having explored the whole length of the works this weekend, there is loads to report. At Stockman's Lane, work is well underway on the two bridge abutments at the north and south sides of the roundabout. They appear to consist of three walls of vertical steel piles which will be encased in concrete, rather than the 45 degree slope fronted by pillars that was there previously. Picture 1 shows the progress on the southernmost abutment. Note that some columns that date from the construction of the bridges back in the early 1960s can be seen within the new abutment. Since the plan is to have an earthen embankment in the centre of the roundabout, two more abutments are required in the centre, and the foundations are being laid for one of these at the minute. The fourth one has not yet been started. Note also that the new abutments appear to be set several metres back from the current roundabout. This may be to allow the roundabout to be made larger, or it may simply be to "future proof" the junction by making it as flexible as possible.

Next, on the M1 motorway between here and Broadway, site clearance has taken place for a distance of about 10 metres along the entire east side of the M1 (beside the countrybound lanes). At the Broadway end this land is required for the Blackstaff culverting operation, but the Blackstaff soon goes inland towards Boucher so the rest of this land is evidently being prepared for the M1 widening. Two lanes will be added on this side because the presence of the Bog Meadows wildlife reserve prevents any widening on the west side. When finished, the M1 will have three lanes in each direction here. When the project began, the widening was scheduled to begin in February 2007, but this may now be running ahead of schedule.

At the Broadway end of the M1, a large number of steel reinforcing frames are lying on the east side of the motorway, which suggests that piling is about to begin on the sides of the approach to the future Broadway underpass. This underpass will be 7 metres below ground level, as opposed to the 4 metres at Grosvenor Road, so the approach will be much longer. The roundabout has now largely returned to its original shape and the link road from the small roundabout at the Park Centre to the main roundabout has been rebuilt and reopened. It's not clear what will happen next at this stage, as culverting the rivers still has to take place on the south side of the roundabout. For now the Blackstaff continues to run directly under the roundabout so nothing major can happen there until the culverting is complete. I took no photos at Broadway as there is no one thing different enough to photograph.

At Grosvenor Road, seen in pictures 2 and 3, work is progressing well. A comparison of these pictures with two identical views taken a month ago (see 15 Oct, below) shows that the work on piling the sides of the underpass has advanced well in the past month with most of the piles now in place. Some piles on the west side of the former roundabout stick quite far into the air. This is the site of the future bridge, which will be 3 metres above ground level, but these pillars look too hapazard - and not perfectly vertical - to be the actual supports for the bridge. The pillars seen in the foreground are metal moulds and may simply be resting in this location. Over the winter we can probably expect to see the bridge abutments take shape and the excavation of the huge amount of material from the underpass. When the underpass is complete, traffic will probably be diverted into it while the sliproads and bridge approaches are completed, but that will not be for another year.

Pic 1: The southernmost abutment for the future M1 citybound at Stockman's Lane. The concrete just visible behind the metal rods dates from the original bridge of the 1960s and will likely be entombed within the new strucutre. Taken on 12 Nov 2006. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Pic 2: The view north along the Westlink at Grosvenor Road on 12 Nov, from the temporary bridge. Most of the pillars for the underpass are now in place on the left and right. Compare to photo on 15 Oct below. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Pic 3: Not so much had changed on the south side of Grosvenor Road on 12 Nov, other than the addition of a large pile of mud. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

9 November 2006

The scheme is now 22% complete in time terms, so we really are getting there. Over the past week there were two stories in the news relating to the safety aspects of the scheme. Firstly, at Grosvenor Road, the Andersonstown News reported on the 2nd that local children have been using the new temporary bridge over the Westlink to throw stones onto cars below, despite there being a three metre safety fence along each side of the bridge. The newspaper contends that it is unacceptable that the building site is so accessible to local children and insists that the 24 hour security needs to be stepped up. It is true that anybody can walk into the site from the street as the gates are normally lying open anytime I have been past. Although it is also true that parents should know where their children are. Following the serious road accident that closed the M1 motorway for a day in October (see Oct 13th update below) I commented on the progress reports that the 30mph speed limit on the M1 through the works is universally ignored and that the police may need to enforce it better. This seems to be happening, as the Belfast telegraph today reported that the PSNI are considering installing a fixed-penalty permanent speed camera on the M1 here to enforce the 30mph speed limit. Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said "People driving there must abide by the 30mph speed limit. I have seen motorists going 40, 50 or even 60mph. When people pass the Broadway roundabout they immediately drive as if they are on a motorway but there are still cones there and it is still a restricted area." If enforced, the fine would be £60 a time. I'm hoping to visit the works with my camera soon so watch this space over the next week.

22 October 2006

After all the attention paid last week to Grosvenor Road, this week it is the turn of the other parts of the scheme. At Stockman’s Lane, where the contraflow was the scene of yet another multi-vehicle road accident this week, a piling machine has appeared which is likely to be putting in the foundations for the bridge abutments. Since a large percentage of time on any construction project is spent on foundations, it may be a while before we see the pair of new bridges themselves taking shape. At Broadway, the process of culverting the Clowney and Blackstaff rivers has been ongoing for some months now. Next weekend the modified layout of Broadway, set up four months ago, will be removed and the roundabout restored to what it used to look like. This will mean that the link-road connecting the main roundabout to the smaller roundabout at the Park Centre will re-open. Picture 1 below shows a completed section of the Clowney culvert ready to be reburied underneath this link road - the river in the foreground is the Blackstaff, as yet unmodified and still following its old course. The modified layout at Broadway was originally to have been in place until the start of December, so this suggest that work is proceeding ahead of schedule. However, much is still to be done. From next weekend, the M1 countrybound will be realigned closer towards the centre of the road so that culverting works can continue on the eastern edge of the M1. The plan is to run the Clowney 200 metres south along the western side of the M1, under the motorway, join the Blackstaff and then both will run 200 metres back north again to rejoin the original course. Picture 2 shows some box-sections stored in the centre of Broadway roundabout waiting to be lowered into the ground to carry the two rivers. There is still a huge amount of work to be done before any part of the new underpass can be constructed. Between Broadway and Roden Street an old red brick industrial building is being demolished. This may or may not be related to the scheme as most of the land it occupies is not required for the road.

Pic 1: A completed section of the Clowney culvert at Broadway, soon to be re-buried under the link road between the small roundabout at the Park Centre (to the left) and the main roundabout (to the right) on 22 Oct. The grey wall is the edge of the original Blackstaff culvert, as yet not removed. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Pic 2: New box sections being stored at Broadway that will be connected together and buried to carry the Clowney and Blackstaff rivers. Each one is about 10 feet (3 metres) high. Despite this picture being taken on a Sunday, the site was buzzing with activity. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

16 October 2006

The new bridge which opened last Monday at Grosvenor Road now gives a grandstand view of the works which have hitherto been hidden behind site walls. I explored the site on Sunday and some of the photos are below. In the 6 days since it closed, the roundabout has been all but obliterated (picture 1). The area of brown soil is the centre of the roundabout with the tarmac of the north and south sides visible beneath the machinery. The trench on the right is the future side of the underpass, currently being poured. The wall on the left is not so advanced with steel reinforcement still being lowered into place. On the south side (picture 2) we can see that the sides of the underpass there are already largely complete and in fact extend beneath the temporary bridge I am standing on. Picture 3 shows a closeup of one of the walls. A slope is clearly evident, indicating that this is the retaining wall for the northbound offslip – an exciting first glimpse of the final layout! The job now is to complete the sides of the underpass on the north side. After that, the mammoth task of excavating the 4 metre deep underpass will begin. Work must also take place to build the bridge that will carry Grosvenor Road. It will be 3 metres higher than the current roundabout to give a total height difference of 7 metres so we can except to see the retaining walls rise higher at this point than elsewhere. Once complete, the Westlink will be diverted into the new underpass while the sliproads are constructed. Picture 4 shows the view towards the former roundabout from the Falls end of the Grosvenor Road. The road is now closed and eventually will rise up here to go over the future bridge. All this will take place over the next 18 months. Watch this space! As all this info is on one part of the scheme, I shall try to post updates on Stockman's Lane and Broadway soon.

Pic 1: Looking north across the former Grosvenor Road roundabout on 15 Oct. The JCBs in the foreground are sitting on the south side of the roundabout with the soil beyond being the centre. The wall of the underpass can be seen taking place on the right. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Pic 2: Looking south along the Westlink (towards the M1) from the temporary bridge. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Pic 3: The side of the future offslip on the south side of Grosvenor Road taking shape. Note how is slopes uphill towards the camera. The current road on the right is on the site of the future offslip. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Pic 4: Looking along Grosvenor Road towards town from the Falls side. The road is now closed and curves onto the temporary bridge to the right. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

13 October 2006

Two serious accidents in the past 48 hours (news story) have highlighted the dangers of travelling through the M1/Westlink roadworks. Around 1.30am yesterday, a pedestrian was killed on the Westlink near Roden Street. We don't know what happened, but this was within the confines of the roadworks and shows the importance of vigilance by both pedestrians and road users where lots of objects and barriers can be confusing and disorienting, particularly at night. Yesterday's accident on the M1 at Stockman's Lane closed the motorway in both directions for 13 hours. It happened shortly before 8am at the point where the contra-flow begins citybound and involved two lorries and at least 4 cars. Five people were hurt but thankfully nobody was killed or critically injured. It caused massive disruption to the city and the economy. Police said that at least one vehicle had crossed through the cones onto the opposite carriageway. It highlights the fact that the universally-ignored speed limit of 30mph is there for good reason. Motorway speeds cannot exist without a viable central barrier. While it is not clear that speed was a factor, if it turns out to have been then perhaps greater enforcement is needed. The road was closed for so long due to the large amount of debris and the need to cut one person free. The police have defended the closure today.

9 October 2006

This morning saw perhaps the biggest change of the project as far as commuters are concerned. All access between Grosvenor Road and the Westlink was closed as of today, with traffic on the Westlink continuing through the former roundabout without stopping* and traffic on the Grosvenor Road, reduced to one lane each way, now going over a temporary bridge. This arrangement will be in place for the next 18 months. Vehicles formerly accessing the city centre from the Westlink via Grosvenor Road are now being directed Divis Street or Broadway. This is, in particular, having a big impact on people going to and from the Royal Victoria Hospital. By effectively removing the Grosvenor Road roundabout bottleneck, this will change the dynamic of the Westlink in unpredictable ways. It is likely to increase congestion at the York Street end as more vehicles arrive there faster, and will also lead to longer queues approaching Broadway in the evening.

Unofficial reports this morning indicated that traffic was worse than usual on many approaches to Belfast and the scheme publicists are advising people to allow an extra 20 minutes on the M1. It is likely that after a couple of weeks the new arrangement will have "bedded in" and it may not be quite that bad. One thing that seems unclear to some people is that you can travel from the Grosvenor Road on the city side to the Grosvenor Road on the Falls side. Some commuters seem to have mis-interpreted the publicity as saying that you can no longer use Grosvenor Road at all. I'm hoping to get some photos of the new arrangement posted here by this time next week.

I also want to be slightly pedantic and point out that the BBC news this evening incorrectly stated that the Westlink was the busiest road in Northern Ireland. In fact that accolade goes to the M2 section between the M3 and Sandyknowes.

*except for one traffic light on the M1-bound lane to allow site traffic to cross.

1 October 2006

Today the scheme's progress passes the 20% mark, in terms of time, and there are lots of changes to note at Grosvenor Road, and more to come in a week's time. The temporary bridge over the Westlink here is now complete (pics 1+2) and is due to open next Monday (9th Oct). From the 7th traffic will no longer be able to access Grosvenor Road from the Westlink, and vice-versa. This arrangement will be in place until Spring 2008 when the new junction is due to open. Traffic continues to go under the bridge and, as seen in picture 3, traffic cones and twisty lanes are still very much the norm. It remains to be seen whether traffic will pass through the centre of the temporary bridge, or over towards the edges, when it is opened next weekend. Also, somewhat unexpectedly for me, all 20 houses on Devonshire Close and Devonshire Way, at the north western edge of the Grosvenor Road roundabout, were demolished mid week (pics 4+5). Today work continues to remove their foundations. The land they occupy is not needed for the project, so it may be part of an unrelated housing project as suggested by this news story. Elsewhere, work continues much as before with a maze of cones at Broadway continuing to slow rush hour traffic as the culverts for the Clowney and Blackstaff continue to be constructed. From the 9th I would advise commuters to leave extra time because the closure of Grosvenor Road will lead to a "settling in" period as commuters establish new ways to get to their destinations. Divis Street, in particular, will likely get busier.

The completed temporary bridge at Grosvenor Road on 1 Oct, seen from the west. It has footpaths on each side, which will offer grandstand views of progress on the site below. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Detail of the support structures of the temporary bridge at the western end. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

The view north along the Westlink from Grosvenor Road. Friday night will be the last chance EVER to turn left towards the M2 from Grosvenor Road west as the completed junction will not have north-facing sliproads. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

The two terraces of houses visible at the top left of this Google Earth view of Grosvenor Road were demolished in the past week. Image taken before works began. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

This JCB was actively removing the foundations of the houses on Devonshire Court on the morning of 1 October. It may be unrelated to the Westlink project. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

21 September 2006

Over the course of the past 2 1/2 weeks since the last update most of the spans of the temporary bridge at Grosvenor Road have been slowly lifted into place. The bridge looks somewhat haphazard, being made of bare steel girders and forming a gentle arch that looks rather as if it has sunk at each end. Around 7 spans are in place as of today. What remains is to lift the last spans into place and connect them to the approach ramps at each end. The approach ramps are going to involve a tight S-bend at each end so large lorries will only be able to negotiate the structure with care. It is scheduled to open on Monday, 9 October 2006 so commuters who go from Grosvenor Road <-> Westlink have only got two more weeks to enjoy the privilege before access is sealed off! The lanes of the Westlink have now been shifted around so much that driving it at off-peak times (when you can go at the permitted 30mph) is like a trip on a roller-coaster with the carriageway weaving left and right past various holes and obstacles. The Blackstaff culvert at Broadway seems to be progressing way with evidence of much pouring of concrete. Not much new is evident at Stockman's Lane. except that a report issued by Roads Service on 8 September indicated that works to widen the M1 from Stockman's Lane to Broadway are going to begin soon. This is a change from the published timeline under which this work was not due to begin until February 2007. In time terms the scheme will be 20% completed on 30 September - a landmark.

3 September 2006

The most obvious change to the Westlink was last night's installation of the enormous central span of the temporary bridge at Grosvenor Road (picture 1). This span will carry two lanes of traffic and a segregated footpath along each side. It will be augmented by six further spans to get the temporary bridge right across the whole building site. Construction on the approach ramps is also nearing completion with the kerbstones now in place on the western ramp (picture 2). The bridge is expected to be in operation by "early to mid October", at which point all access between Grosvenor Road and the Westlink will be closed for approximately a year. It appears that the Grosvenor Road will be reduced to two lanes across the bridge for the duration of the works. Also, the former foot subway under the northern side of the roundabout was demolished this week, leaving a large hole. Piling for the sides of the underpass has also taken place on the northern side.

Meanwhile, at Broadway the overhead high voltage cables have now been diverted underground and the cables and pylons adjacent to the M1 and across Broadway roundabout have been almost entirely removed. This has left the centre of the Broadway roundabout virtually clear except for a few surviving bushes. Most work here is still on the long process of building culverts for the Blackstaff and Clowney rivers to divert them away from the works. There is not much new work evident at Stockman's Lane, although it is certain that some ground-level works have taken place.

Picture 1 – The central span of the temporary bridge at Grosvenor Road the morning

after its overnight installation, 3 Sep 2006. View north. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Picture 2 – the approach ramp on the western side of the Grosvenor Road taking shape. The road will be diverted up here onto the new bridge. Seen on 3 Sep 2006. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

30 August 2006

Work proceeded much as it has recently on the Westlink and Stockman's Lane over the past two weeks. At Broadway the long and slow process of constructing culverts for the Clowney and Blackstaff rivers is proceeding. It seems that construction on the temporary bridge at Grosvenor Road is proceeding further, with a partial closure of the road this weekend (Saturday->Sunday night) which is described as being "to facilitate the erection of a temporary bridge". It is likely that this is one of several closures for this purpose, but will be interesting on Monday to see what happened over the weekend. Those who access the Westlink via Grosvenor Road may find that their days of doing so are numbered – publicity has previously implied that access will be closed before the end of the year. Tomorrow is the end of the 8th month of the project, and marks 18% completion in time terms (the end of September will mark the landmark 20% point).

13 August 2006

On the M1 south of Broadway work has been ongoing on altering the cabling carried by the pylons along the route. A photograph was included with the update for 23 July (below) showing strange scaffolding. It is now confirmed that this was part of the process of diverting the cabling underground so that the pylons over Broadway can be removed. Picture 1 below shows the pylons now, with cabling just visible heading down to the ground from the second one. The Broadway junction will be closed from the evening of Saturday 19th August until the Sunday morning to remove the cables across the junction. This will likely be followed by the removal of the pylons themselves.

Meanwhile, also at Broadway, excavation is well underway on the culvert for the Clowney River which flows under the junction (see update on 9 July for a map). Drivers going cityward using the new layout can clearly see the channel being dug as they drive past. The new road layout has quite a fast light sequence which is leading to increased changeover time and hence worse congestion than normal. Even on a Saturday afternoon, the traffic is tailing back about a mile from Broadway. See picture 2 below for a view of Broadway roundabout as seen from the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Finally, on the M1 at Stockman's Lane, the aforementioned traffic jam allowed me to photograph the severed northbound bridge from the contraflow on the southbound bridge. Site clearance continues and foundations will likely soon be laid. See photo 3 below.

Picture 1 - the Pylons by the M1 approaching Broadway on 7 August 2006. Cabling is being diverted underground at the second pylon. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Picture 2 - Broadway roundabout seen from the Royal Victoria Hospital on 7 August 2006. The M1 is visible going to the distance, while the cranes are on the Westlink just north of the junction. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Picture 3 - the wounded M1 northbound lanes at Stockman's Lane seen from the remaining bridge. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

1 August 2006

As the scheme enters its 8th month, there is not much new to report this week, with work continuing more or less like last week. The new layout at Broadway seems to be bedding in with congestion not reported to be so bad this Monday. John O'Connor, with an interest in electrical engineering, responded to the challenge on 23 July to tell me what was happening with the pylon on the M1 near Broadway. He believes it to be part of a process to divert the high voltage cabling underground. This would make sense since it would allow the pylons over the Broadway roundabout to be removed. Also, although it is not part of this project, commuters may be pleased to hear that today the government announced a £50m plan to build a flyover link from the Westlink to the M2. It is currently expected to be built between 2011 and 2016. This will remove the final Westlink bottleneck.

23 July 2006

Over the past week, commuters on the M1 were getting used to the new layout at Broadway junction. The new arrangement, which will be in place until December, is to permit the construction of new culverts for the diversion of the two rivers that flow under the roundabout. (See update on 10th July for a map of the new layout.) However, the new light sequence does not seem to be quite as tailored as the old one and congestion has been worse since it was installed with specific mentions on the Traffic Watch site all last week. Travelling through the junction on Saturday, I noticed how short the light sequence seems to be, and also just how tight is the corner on the former roundabout from traffic coming from the M1. Also this week, two huge scaffold towers have been rising beside one of the pylons on the M1 just south of the Westlink. It's unclear exactly what these are for. See the photos below. Also, work continues at Stockman's Lane with evidence this week of ditches being dug at the site of the bridges demolished a couple of weeks ago. These may be service ducts, or else foundation trenches. In time terms, the M1/Westlink scheme is now 15% completed.

Approaching the new road layout from the M1 on 22 July. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

The new set of traffic lights on what was once the M1 allows vehicles to bypass the closed section of Broadway roundabout. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

And what are these strange scaffolding towers visible on the M1 just south of Broadway? [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

10 July 2006

Roads Service today released a detailed plan of the new road layout at Broadway. It should make things much easier to understand. Click here! [PDF, 330kB]. If this link is broken, please let me know.

9 July 2006

With the whole of the M1 citybound bridge at Stockman's Lane now demolished work will begin here to construct the new pair of bridges and central earthen embankment. It is not known how long it will take, but from the timetable above it is likely to be between 6 and 9 months. Attention this week turns to the Broadway roundabout where there will be big changes from next weekend (16th). The roundabout will be "elongated southwards" significantly, an arrangement which will be in place for the next five months. A new section of tarmac between the two lanes of the M1 will mean that traffic travelling around the south side of the roundabout will travel down the M1 for a short distance before turning round and heading back again. This will be confusing at first so is likely to cause delays during the rush hour - thankfully traffic is traditionally lighter in July which should offset the worst problems. The small link road connecting the small Donegall Road roundabout to the main roundabout will be closed, as will the existing south part of the Broadway roundabout. The M1 bus lane will no longer be able to operate via the small Donegall Road roundabout which will delay buses slightly, but not significantly.

The point of all this is to construct new culverts for the Clowney and Blackstaff rivers. The map below (not to scale) shows the current locations of the rivers beneath the junction. The plan is to shift the Blackstaff east into a new culvert so that it no longer flows under the roundabout. The Clowney will be diverted south by 200 metres before turning east and flowing under the M1 and then north again in a culvert parallel to the Blackstaff. These two culverts will then join in an underground overflow chamber to the east of the new junction. The combined river will flow north as before. (The plan publicised a year ago to put a culvert inside the new flyover seems to have been abandoned). Considering that the rivers cannot be switched off, this is a big job and will have to be done in stages. This closure is the first phase of the process.  In time terms the whole project is now 13% complete.

Rivers under the Broadway junction

The location of rivers under Broadway roundabout prior to work commencing (not to scale).

26 June 2006

Work on the Westlink has continued much as before over the past 10 days, but there are big changes at Stockman's Lane. A week ago, demolition work began on the bridge that carries the Belfast-bound carriageway of the M1. The first bit to go was the span crossing the central circle of the roundabout. At the weekend, the southern part of the roundabout was closed to allow the portion of the bridge crossing the roundabout here to be removed. Next weekend, the northern part will be removed. The photos below show the situation on Sunday afternoon. The M1 is rather hair-raising at the minute since four lanes are crossing a bridge designed for two on a contra-flow with extremely narrow lanes. The faster they can build the replacement bridges the better! (Replacement will consist of two bridges with an earthern embankment in the centre of the roundabout).

Some good news for Grosvenor Road users: according to this story, access from Grosvenor Road onto/off the Westink will not be closed until near the end of 2006, much later then initially stated. The DRD are quoted as saying that "on a project of this scale programme changes are a continual feature of the process".

The southernmost end of the bridge carrying the M1 (Belfast bound) over Stockman's Lane roundabout was removed over the weekend, here seen on 25 June 2006. Taken from the Kennedy Way side. Four traffic lanes are now using the remaining bridge. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Looking guilty - JCBs in the centre of the Stockman's Lane roundabout with the one remaining part of the Belfast bound M1 bridge beyond. It will be removed next weekend (1-2 July 2006). Taken from the Kennedy Way side. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

16 June 2006

Mostly more of the same over the past two weeks. At the start of the month the Roads Service published a free booklet under the title "The Link" which gave a great deal of information about the scheme and how exactly work is going to proceed.

At Grosvenor Road, the Westlink traffic is being moved to each side of the junction - the job of moving the road here is essentially completed with a huge rectangular site now prepared in the centre of the junction. Workers are now sinking hundreds of piles on the south side of the junction that will form the sides of the underpass. Once done, they will install supports for the temporary bridge that will carry the Grosvenor Road over the site. Then, workers will hammer more piles into the north side of the site creating the remaining sides of the underpass. The permanent bridge will then be built and the underpass excavated. Finally, traffic will transfer to the underpass while the new sliproads are constructed.

At Broadway, which is going to have a completely solid roundabout on top with no hole in the centre, workers are going to hammer in piles in the centre of the roundabout that will form the sides of the underpass. They will then construct a massive concrete slab in-situ, without digging anything out first. Then, the roundabout will be rebuilt more or less in its finished form on top of the slab. After that, workers will excavate soil out from under the slab, excavate the approach slopes and construct the underpass. Traffic will be directed along the line of the future sliproads while all this happens.

The contra-flow at Stockman's Lane was due to be set up yesterday. It will see all traffic using the country-bound bridge for several months while the city-bound bridge is demolished and rebuilt. The new structure will consist of two bridges, with an earthern embankment for the section in the centre of the roundabout. This is different from the current arrangement where each carriageway is carried on a single long bridge that crosses the entire junction. This may be to save money, or it may be to find a use for the thousands of tons of soil about to be excavated at Grosvenor Road! This initial contra-flow will have narrow lanes as 4 lanes try to use a bridge designed for 2. The future contra-flow to demolish the second bridge will be easier as the new bridges are being built 3 lanes wide.

In time terms the scheme is today 12% complete.

29 May 2006

Lots of progress over the past two weeks to be reported, and plenty of photos since I went out and explored the works on foot at the weekend! The scheme is now 11% complete in time terms.

At Grosvenor Road, traffic lanes on each side of the roundabout are now almost entirely moved out towards the sides of the site. This task has taken several months to complete as a large quantity of services lie under the road and these have been removed progressively. This will eventually leave a huge rectangular building site in the middle of the road from which the underpass will be excavated over the next year or so (pic 1). At each side of the road just south of the roundabout two huge earth ramps continue to take shape (pic 2)- these will carry the 4-lane Grosvenor Road up to and over temporary bridge until Spring 2008. In the meantime traffic emerging from Grosvenor Road both at the city side and the Falls side can join the Westlink in either direction - but not for much longer. Grosvenor Road will continue to be reduced to one lane each way for the time being as service diversion continues.

1. Looking along the Westlink towards Grosvenor Road roundabout from the M1 direction on 28 May. The area between the two carriageways, behind the wooden fence, will be the building site where the underpass will be excavated.

2. The temporary ramp on the Falls side of the Westlink taking shape on 28 May.

At Broadway, work has so far been less disruprive, but is ongoing. The demolished buildings at the entrance to the Royal Victoria Hospital have now been completely cleared away leaving open land here which will probably be used for temporary road alignments later on. Service diversion work continues, and this week the disruption was mainly to Broadway road (pic 3) which has been shifted to one side temporarily. For the next week or so, service diversions will take place on the M1-bound lanes of the Westlink, so traffic heading in this direction will be transferred over onto the M2-bound lanes. The M2-bound lanes have been shifted over themselves to make space for this, essentially by tarmac-ing over the grass verges (pic 4). Finally, service diversions are also ongoing on the small "Donegall Road" roundabout at the entrance to the Park Centre. This roundabout will be preserved when the junction is completed, but the services still have to be moved off-site.

3. Looking along the Westlink towards Boadway roundabout, from the Grosvenor Road direction on 28 May. All the cones are the diversion works at Broadway road.

4. Looking along the Westlink from Broadway roundabout in the M2 direction on 28 May, showing the lanes shifted over to make space for the contra-flow.

At the M1 junction at Stockman's Lane work is finally about to commence on the third junction of the scheme. Within the next month the city-bound bridges that carry the M1 motorway over the roundabout (pic 5) will be demolished and new, wider bridges built. So starting on 3 June, work will begin to widen the M1 on each side of the junction in preparation for a contra-flow: the remaining bridge will carry all four lanes of traffic temporarily. It will be sad in a way to see the bridges go - they were amongst the first motorway bridges to be built in Northern Ireland. But the times warrant their replacement. On the roundabout, the site has already been sealed off with fences.

5. Stockman's Lane bridges carrying the M1 as seen from the Lisburn Road side on 28 May. The far bridge will be the first to be demoished.

13 May 2006

Some confusion was evident from Westlink users who I spoke to over the past few weeks. There seemed to be a misunderstanding that the Westlink was going to be reduced to one lane for the past week. However, this did not happen and it seems to have been caused by a misleading e-mail that was sent round the Westlink mailing list by the Roads Service that neglected to mention that the one-lane arrangement would only be in place at night. Also, their distinction between "Donegall Road" roundabout and "Broadway" roundabout is probably not clear to road users. (The former is the small roundabout near the entrance to the Park Centre, not the main roundabout.)

At this stage of the project, work is progressing in earnest at both Broadway and Grosvenor Road. At Broadway (first picture) the petrol station in the grounds of the hospital has been demolished, and the area to the south west of the roundabout also cleared. This will allow traffic to be diverted away from the main roundabout as and when required, and will happen for a time next week. Just south of Grosvenor Road, the M1-bound lanes have already been shifted about 20 metres east and work is in hand to shift the M2-bound lanes westwards (second photo). Work has also finally begun on the approach ramps for the temporary bridge that will carry the Grosvenor Road for the next two years. The ramp on the city side is now several metres high (third photo).

I was at the Roads Service stand at Balmoral Show and they said that the demolition of the Stockman's Lane bridges on the M1 will commence in about 3 weeks time. This process will see one side demolished and rebuilt, and then the process repeated on the other side. On 15 May, the Westlink project will be 10% completed, having reached 4.5 months out of 45!

1. Broadway on 13 May.

2. Approaching Grosvenor Road roundabout from the M1 on 13 May.

3. Ramp for the temporary bridge at Grosvenor Road taking shape (beyond green digger) on 13 May.

Apr 2006

25 Apr 2006 - The past couple of weeks saw the first works at Broadway. Contractors need to install ducts under the M1 here in order to carry wires etc and these can only be installed by digging up the road. Therefore for the next two weeks there will be a contra-flow on the M1 approaching Broadway, switching sides half way through this period. Once the ducts are completed, the motorway will return to normal. As part of this process, the third lane of the Westlink will be closed from Grosvenor Road to Broadway since the third lane would have nowhere to go once it hit the narrowed M1. This lane should re-open once the ducts are completed. Other than this, most other works have taken place overnight. These included the Divis Street offslips and Stockman's Lane roundabout. Motorists can be assured that work is progressing on diverting wires and services, even though not much seems to be changing. The frequest outages of the traffic lights on the Westlink recently have been an illustration of how complicated it must be to re-route all the wiring that is buried under the Westlink.

5 Apr 2006 - A contra-flow has been in operation on the Westlink between Grosvenor Road and Divis Street for the past two weeks. Traffic was all using the M2-bound side of the road. This was to allow contractors to divert services which are under the road here. These are now completed and from this morning the contra-flow will be moved onto the M1-bound lanes. If it's the same as the first half of the job, it should last about 2 weeks. Work will continue on constructing the temporary bridge that will eventually carry the Grosvenor Road. As of the end of March, the project was 6% complete. Only 94% left to do! There will be no updates for the next 2 weeks or so.

Mar 2006

26 Mar 2006 - Commuters will have been feeling the works bedding in as more and more changes have been made. In the past 2 weeks, contractors have removed the central reservation of the Westlink between Divis Street sliproads and Grosvenor Road roundabout and tarmac-ed over the gap. This will allow all 4 lanes of traffic to be moved onto the M2-bound side for two weeks. This will permit contractors to dig up the service pipes etc under the M1-bound lanes. In the second week of April the arrangement will be reversed. This time consuming job has to be done as the pipes etc have to be moved before work on excavating the underpass can begin. From the end of last week, the two lanes open between Grosvenor Road and Roden Street are being shifted towards the central reservation (see photo, on M2-bound lanes) in order to allow work to begin on construction of the ramps for the temporary road bridge. The land on each side and in the central reservation has now been cleared for this. Roadworks have also begun on the M1 between Saintfield Road and Stockman's Lane. This is a different project (building a bus lane on the hard shoulder) and is not directly related to the Westlink project. It will involve a contra-flow system with cones and will last until mid June.

13 Mar 2006 - Everyone was waiting with bated breath for this morning's Rush Hour because right-turns onto Grosvenor Road from the Westlink were to be banned from today. However, the congestion on the Westlink was the same if not better than normal while congestion on other arterial routes such as the lower Malone and Ormeau Roads was apparently worse than usual. This is probably due to so many people taking alternative routes. This will all settle down over the next couple of weeks as the new system finds equilibrium. The photo on the left, taken on 11 March, shows the lanes approaching Grosvenor Road from the M2 direction, which were repainted last week to shove traffic over towards the sides. This will give the contractor maximum room for operating in the centre of the road to dig the underpass. Meanwhile, tree felling along the central reservation between Grosvenor Road and Roden Street is now complete. The second picture (below) shows the area just south of the roundabout where even the soil has now been removed from the central reservation. Fascinatingly, it seems to have revealed red brick foundations (not visible in photo) that are in all likelihood the remnants of the buildings that were demolished in the 1970s to make way for the Westlink. This is a very interesting piece of industrial archaeology. This spot is possibly being cleared to make way for a support pillar for the temporary "bailey bridge" due to be built soon. The final photo shows the central reservation approaching Roden Street from the M2 direction, now completely devoid of trees.  The piles of sawdust imply that the trees were chipped to make them easier to remove. Also, Friends of the Earth have used traffic figures to argue (probably correctly) that the M1/Westlink upgrade will bring short-lived improvements and that traffic will be gridlocked again after a few years. See here. Finally, the TrafficWatch webcam at Grosvenor Road seems to have been deactivated. Darn.

Above and below: Westlink central reservation seen southbound between

Grosvenor Road and Roden Street on 11 March 2006.

3 Mar 2006 - The work to upgrade Grosvenor Road junction is starting to get underway in a visible way and there are several things to note. Contractors are currently building a new football pitch at Grosvenor Recreation Centre to replace the one that will be buried by the approach ramps for the temporary bridge that will carry Grosvenor Road past the roadworks for the next two years. From 11 March traffic on the Westlink coming from the M1 will no longer be able to turn right into town along Grosvenor Road, and traffic on the Westlink coming from the M2/M3 will no longer be able to turn right towards the Falls along Grosvenor Road. Other movements are not affected at this stage. Drivers are being advised to continue to Divis Street and exit there instead. And from 12 March, pedestrians will no longer be permitted to use the crossings at Grosvenor Road - access will be via the subway only. This is temporary as pedestrians will be able to use the temporary bridge once it is built. The next week will see the contractor working in the central reservation of the Westlink between Roden Street and Grosvenor Road, probably to clear trees. Therefore from Monday 6 March, the third lane of the Westlink will be closed for traffic going towards the M1. Meanwhile service (electricity, pipe) relocation at Broadway will continue for the next few weeks and more trees will likely be felled.

Feb 2006

21 Feb 2006 - The past week has seen substantial tree felling along the Westlink. All the trees in the middle of Broadway roundabout are now gone (see photo, taken on 19 Feb), as are most trees along the north side of the Westlink from there to Roden Street, and patches on the south side. As of today, work has begun to cut down the trees in the central reservation of the Westlink at Grosvenor Road. The Westlink now looks very exposed and devoid of vegetation, but it has to happen before the nesting season to prevent the destruction of birds' nests. The felling of the trees is quite sad to see, even though we knew it was coming.

13 Feb 2006 - The Belfast Telegraph today revealed that the contract for the Westlink has now been signed, although funding has yet to be secured by the private consortium. Nevertheless, work continues to intensify. Currently:

  • Traffic lights are being installed at Stockman's Lane
  • Engineers have begun the process of removing the electricity pylon at Broadway
  • Pilot holes are being dug to locate the many pipes/wires under the road.

As well as these, further work is due to start soon:

  • Early March: start of construction of temporary bridge at Grosvenor Road
  • April/May: layout of Broadway junction will be altered to make space for works

You can see the full news story here.

10 Feb 2006 - Work has continued over the past week to install traffic lights on the Stockman's Lane roundabout (M1 j2). The most time consuming and disruptive part of this process is to cut "slots" in the roads, which are basically tubes down which the wires to the lights will be passed. This has to be done progressively as you can't close the entire roundabout for a week. Once the slots are all cut, engineers will begin installing and wiring up the lights. This will help to ease congestion when the rest of the roadworks begin. There is still no sign of work on the ground on the Westlink. There will be off-peak lane closures in the next couple of weeks in the canyon section, but this is for routine cleaning and is unrelated to the upgrade scheme.

3 Feb 2006 - Trees along the north (Falls) side of the Westlink between Roden Street and Grosvenor Road have been felled in the past few days. This is at least partly to make room for the temporary "bailey" bridge that will carry the Grosvenor Road during the works. Also, BBC Northern Ireland's "The Politics Show" this coming Sunday morning, 5th February, will be doing a piece on the Westlink upgrade and will be asking if it was wise not include a flyover onto the M2. The Northern Ireland Roads Site will also have its 3 minutes of fame on the programme (principally about the old plans for the Belfast Urban Motorway which evolved into the Westlink).

Jan 2006

27 Jan 2006 - Negative publicity against the Roads Service continued to mount today as the Irish News revealed that the Roads Service has not even signed the contract for the Westlink project, despite preliminary work having actually begun. This would certainly explain why they have been unable to give meaningful timescale information to drivers over the past few weeks. In the article the Roads Service promise that major work will commence in "mid February" and that initial work will be the installation of traffic lights at Stockman's Lane, the banning of some right-turn movements at Grosvenor Road and the removal of trees and overhead cables. It also says that while work will also proceed at Broadway it will be "several months" before any traffic flow changes occur. The Irish News story is here, although you must be a subscriber. It also emerged that the construction consortium, Highway Management (NI), is made up of John Graham (Dromore) Ltd, Northshore (NI) Ltd and Bilfinger Berger. The contract is due to be signed soon. However, workers are already engaged in the clearances mentioned above as well as digging pilot holes to investigate the ground conditions. The ground is made of "Belfast sleech", a form of alluvial mud that is notoriously difficult to build on.

26 Jan 2006 - Today the Belfast Telegraph published an article asking the question most commuters are asking - why are we being kept in the dark about the timing of the scheme? Why do the Roads Service seem to be incapable of giving specific dates for the start of works? Do they not know? How can they give estimates ranging from January-April for the start of major work when the scheme has supposedly started? They either don't know, or they are choosing to keep the public in the dark. To date, not a single e-mail has been sent out on the Westlink e-mail alert system and not one date has been published on the new Westlink information page.

Come on Roads Service - lets have some better information!

24 Jan 2006 - I remembered recently that the Roads Service have a traffic camera at the Grosvenor Road roundabout which you can access on their web site if you have Windows Media Player. The camera may well be removed at some point, but if not it will be useful to check progress at this junction! Click this link. Even with broadband it can take a minute or more for the picture to appear. It's an actively used camera, so you may even see it moving around and zooming in! I'm expecting the first work on the ground to take place around the end of the month, but the Roads Service is being vague with "later in January" and "February" both being quoted.

17 Jan 2006 - The official "cutting of the first sod" ceremony took place this afternoon, formally beginning work that actually began last November when the site yard at Broadway was begun. More site work is likely to continue with the construction of the temporary bridge at Grosvenor Road being one of the first "visible" signs of progress. The media have also commented on the fact that the contractor will be fined for lane closures, although note that this is not the same thing as saying they won't do it anyway. In any case, it is great to see work finally underway - the sooner it begins, the sooner it will all be completed.

16 Jan 2006 - An official web site on the scheme is due to be launched tomorrow. You can access it by clicking here. It contains interesting 3D models of Stockman's Lane, Broadway and Grosvenor Road junctions. As predicted in the update on 12 Jan, the Roads Service web site is now saying that work which will directly impact on drivers is not due to commence until February. However, since advanced works on site yards and service diversions etc are ongoing, the scheme has been moved from "future" to "current" schemes.

12 Jan 2006 - a news story on the UTV web site claims that work proper on the Westlink is due to commence on Tuesday, 17 January. However, much initial time may be spent preparing site yards etc and may not immediately impact on drivers. Watch this space.

Oct-Dec 2005

29 Dec 2005 - news stories yesterday in both the Belfast Telegraph and Belfast Newsletter carried an interview with the head of the project, Roy Spiers. He suggests that three years is actually a remarkably short time given the amount of work to be done and says that "The level of activity will be ferocious. There's an awful lot of work to be done." He concludes by saying that his aim is to remove the Westlink bottleneck and that "if they [motorists] can drive through it smoothly without noticing it [once it is completed] then I will have done my job right." It is also reported that the Grosvenor Road junction will be closed VERY SOON, perhaps in January or February 2006 and remain closed for 2 years. Work at Broadway will last for 3 years but the junction will remain generally open throughout.

15 Dec 2005 - work is due to re-commence on 12 January 2006 to build a site entrance from the M1 to the south and west of the Broadway roundabout - this is likely to be the site entrance for the Westlink upgrade works at this location. The work on this site yard will last until approx 12 February. Some work also took place at this location in November and December 2005.

21 Nov 2005 - a leaflet to inform road hauliers of the M1 and Westlink schemes was launched today and the scheme scheduled to begin late in January 2006 and last for approximately 3 years. Work continues apace to upgrade the Hillhall Road to act as an official alternative route.

19 Nov 2005 - it now seems that the plan for the Roden Street junction is as follows: to allow left-in and left-out sliproads into and out of Mulhouse Road (Royal Victoria Hospital) and to close off access to Roden Street entirely. The bus lane will be shifted to the south side of the Westlink, leaving the Broadway roundabout and running where the River Blackstaff currently lies. This means that there should be no requirement to stop on the Westlink at Roden Street, which was the only remaining obstacle to designating the A12 as part of the M1 motorway when work is completed.

13 Oct 2005 - no sign of work on the ground. Work is underway at 3 places to upgrade the Hillhall Road which many people will likely use as an alternative route. The Roads Service have explicitly said that these schemes are timetabled for this express purpose. Installing traffic lights on the Stockman's Lane roundabout (M1 j2) is also due to take place before work begins.

Other Progress Reports

This page is an archive of old progress reports.

For the final progress reports, after late July 2008, click here.

For the progress reports from February 2008 to early July 2008, click here.

For the progress reports from October 2007 to February 2008, click here.

For the progress reports from July 2007 to September 2007, click here.

For the progress reports from March 2007 to June 2007, click here.

For the progress reports from December 2006 to February 2007, click here.