A26 dualling - Glarryford to A44 Drones Road

 

Status
Construction scheme (current)
Where
To dual about a third of the A26 between Ballymena and Ballymoney, which forms part of the main route north from Belfast via Antrim to Coleraine.
Contractor
BAM/McCann consortium
Total Length
7.0km / 4.4 miles
Dates

Scheme proposed in RSTN TP, 2005

Public Information Day held 15-16 Nov 2006

Preferred route announced - 11 Aug 2008

Draft legal documents published - 20 Mar 2012
Public Exhibition - 26-27 Mar 2012
Public Inquiry took place from 5 Nov 2012

Scheme given finance and approved for construction 21 Oct 2013

Scheme put out to initial tender - 4 Dec 2013

Advance site works contract began - 27 Jan 2014

Award of contract to BAM/McCann consortium - 21 Oct 2014
Official contract start date - 19 Jan 2015

Contractor mobilisation works began on site - Early Feb 2015
Official sod-cutting ceremony - 26 Mar 2015

Construction began - 30 Mar 2015
To last 28 months, thus completion due - Aug 2017

(changed from "by 2018" as of Nov 2008, changed from "early 2010" as of Nov 2006)

Cost

£65m (as of Dec 2013)
(revised from £61m as of June 2012; revised from £50m-£70m as of April 2010; £52m as of August 2008; itself revised from £33.4m as of 2006; and that revised from £22.9m as of 2005)

Photos
See below.
See Also

General area map

Official web site for the scheme (Roads Service)

Design of the new road - PDF format
A26 Ballymena to Glarryford on this site

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

The A26 is the principal route north from Antrim to Coleraine, passing Ballymena and Ballymoney on the way. It is very busy, particularly at peak times and in the summer when holidaymakers go to the north coast. If the original motorway plans of the 1960s had taken place, this traffic would all be carried by the M2. However, the M2 was never completed and so the A26 carries the burden. The dualling of the section from Antrim to Ballymena was completed between 1989 and 2001. The section north of Ballymena, which according to Roads Service carries 18,000 vehicles per day, has been dualled as far as Glarryford (about 7km). This scheme will see the next 7km dualled as far as the A44 Drones Road junction where all the traffic for Ballycastle diverts. The map below shows the section in question in red. The red pins indicate the locations of grade separated junctions, while the blue pin is a ground level roundabout.

The route of the scheme, announced in August 2008, is essentially an online upgrade of the existing road, drifting offline only to bypass the Frosses Trees and to cross a river near Clogh Mills. The road will have three "compact" grade separated junctions (ie flyovers) which are, from south to north at:

  • B64 Springmount Road/Station Road (near Glarryford)
  • C61 Lisnasoo Road (just north of the Frosses Trees)
  • B93 Killagan Road / B94 Drumadoon Road (at Logan's Fashions)

Other than these locations, vehicles will NOT be permitted to turn right across the central reservation which will be entirely closed. There will be ten left-in/left-out T-junctions along the road to give access to properties and farms not accessible from the grade separated junctions. The upgrade will terminate at a new roundabout at the A26/A44 Drones Road junction which is currently a Y-junction for traffic heading to Ballycastle to diverge. The Frosses Trees will be preserved in the form of two laybys adjacent to the upgraded road. You can see a map of the proposed road in PDF format by clicking here. Please tell me if this link does not work, as Roads Service sometimes change links. The road will feature a shared foot/cycleway along its length.

The purpose of the scheme is to reduce traffic congestion by increasing the road's capacity/overtaking opportunities, and improving safety by reducing conflicting movements and eliminating head-on overtaking. Arup were commissioned in April 2006 to develop the project.

The Frosses Trees

The famous "Frosses Trees" section of the A26 is near Clogh Mills where beautiful mature trees were been planted down each side in 1839 creating a tunnel effect (see photo below). The trees are arranged in two groups - the larger, southern, one known as the "Big Frosses" and the smaller, northern one, known as the "Wee Frosses". Many local children try to hold their breath as they travel the full length of the trees! Although a number of trees have been felled recently due to their age, the public would not tolerate any attempt to remove this feature. The design of the road has therefore been carefully selected to preserve this remarkable feature in the form of two lay-bys so that drivers can still visit them. See photos below for a picture of the Frosses Trees.

Other Routes Considered

Roads Service considered five route options before settling on the Blue Route.

  1. The Orange Route involves largely widening 60% of the existing road with an offline route on the northern end to the west of the current road.
  2. The Green Route is to widen 80% of the existing road with 20% of the northern end offline to the west.
  3. The Blue Route is to widen the existing road in its entirety. This option was chosen.
  4. The Red Route is an almost entirely new alignment to the east of the current road.
  5. The Yellow Route is only entirely offline east of the current road at the south end and to the west at the north end.

Maps of these options are available here.

Updates

27 Aug 2016: It has been almost three months since I updated this page, and a huge amount of progress has happened. For one thing, three significant sections of new road are now in use. These are (from south to north) (a) Glarryford Cross to the Frosses Trees, which is at least partly offline to the west of the old road; (b) the section under the new Lisnasoo Road flyover which opened in 22 July (though with no access between Lisnasoo Road and the A26 until the end of October) and (c) the section from Logan's Fashions (Drumadoon Road) to the end of the scheme at the A44 Drones Road turnoff, which also opened on 22 July. Traffic is still treating these sections as single-carriageway however, as work is underway to build the second carriageway in most or all of these locations. Work on bridges has also been progressing well. At least four of the eight beams needed for the Glarryford Cross flyover were hoisted into place overnight on 5/6 August - see photos below. This was the last of the major bridges to get its beams so this is a milestone. Work is now underway on building the bridge deck. Just north of there is a farm accommodation bridge, and the concrete bridge deck for that bridge was poured on 12 August. One of the areas where work still has the most way to go is around the Frosses Trees (where there is a lot of peat), especially the southern of the two, the 'Big' Frosses. According to the contractor, peat removal is now substantially complete and construction of the 'capping' layer, on which the road will be built, is underway. And at Lisnasoo Road, where the A26 has now been shifted to the west, work is underway to remove the old road entirely, which will presumably revert to agricultural use or vegetation. The pictures below were taken by Adrian Martin on 5 August (thank you!).


Pic 1: Four HGVs lined up on the A26 at Glarryford Cross, on 5 August 2016. They had arrived earlier in the day, and parked here. Each lorry carried a single beam, which I believe came from Athlone in the Republic of Ireland [Adrian Martin].


Pic 2: A26 at Glarryford Cross, late on 5 August 2016 as the third beam is lifted into place. [Adrian Martin].


Pic 3: A26 at Glarryford Cross, late on 5 August 2016. And the fourth beam gets lowered into place. The four beams visible here complete eastern of the two spans of the future flyover. [Adrian Martin].

1 Jun 2016: A much overdue update for this page, as a lot has been happening. Firstly, the contractor released an incredible drone video of the entire scheme in mid April. Although I tweeted a link to it at the time, I have realised that I never put a link here on the web site, so apologies! Although it's now 6 weeks old, it's still well worth watching if you are any kind of civil engineering enthusiast. Secondly, the contractor released their first Newsletter in April, which is worth reading. There's various articles in it, including information that would be of interest to geologists. Thirdly, a major change took place at 11pm on Friday 27 May when all traffic was switched to the future northbound carriageway on a 2km stretch from the southernmost edge of the scheme south of Glarryford to just before the Big Frosses Trees. This means that traffic is now using the new northbound carriageway of the bridge over the River Clogh, which has been built over the past year. At Glarryford Cross, which is in the middle of the newly opened stretch, the rebuilt Station Road has been re-opened, with all traffic using what will eventually be the north-facing sliproads to join the A26. The Springmount Road is still open, but traffic is being diverted several hundred metres along the "old" road, over Newbridge Bridge, before turning to meet the "new" road at a T-junction. The switching of traffic should allow work to begin on the east side of Glarryford Cross which will allow the bridge itself to be constructed in due course. The photographs below were all taken by Adrian Martin on 29 May and show the new setup. The contractor is maintaining an up-to-date list of current works on their site here, so there is no point in me exhaustively repeating everthing here. However, it is worth highlighting that the earthworks to the east of the "Big Frosses", which had barely begun until now, recommenced in earnest in mid May. As this was one of the few sections where work had yet to begin, this is very welcome. The entire scheme is still on schedule to be completed by August 2017, which is now only 14 months away.


Pic 1: View south from just south of the Clogh River on 29 May 2016. All traffic was using this road until Friday night, and has now been switched to the new road on the right. A crossover has been built in the former central reservation to link the two, because the road where the photographer is standing is still open in order to give access to Springmount Road. The plans show an access point here in the final design, so this little link road may be permanent. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 2: View south along the future A26 on 29 May 2016 from the link road shown in Pic 1. All traffic is now using the future northbound carriageway, while the photographer is standing on what will be the future southbound carriageway. Ahead is the new bridge over the Clogh River. The central crash barrier has not yet been built. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 3: View norh from the same location as Pic 2, with all traffic using the future northbound carriageway, and the photographer again standing on what will be the future southbound carriageway. The pillar in the distance will be the central pier of the Glarryford flyover. On the left are the future north-facing sliproads, which is currently marked out as a T-junction for accessing Station Road (see Pics 7 and 8 below). 29 May 2016. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 4: Moving a few hundred metres north along the old A26, this is the view south from the junction with Springmount Road on 29 May 2016. The area immediately in the foreground will eventually be buried under the approach embankment to the Glarryford flyover, while the stretch of old road beyond will be broken up and grassed over. All traffic is now using the new road on the right. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 5: Moving now onto Station Road, this is the view east from its junction with Kildowney Road (about 300m from the A26) on 29 May 2016. The road now climbs up on an embankment towards the future Glarryford flyover, burying the original road beneath. It has now been reopened and looking very smart with its modern crash barrier, shiny tarmac and what looks like a continuously-cast kerb. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 6: Moving east along Station Road the left side of this shot would a nice view across the Glarryford flyover, were it not for the fact that it hasn't been built yet! For now all traffic is being diverted right onto what will be the future north-facing sliproads, the other end of which was shown in Pic 3. A forest of cones, warning signs and heavy duty barriers is there to prevent errant drivers slithering down the slope beyond. 29 May 2016. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 7: View east towards the A26 from what will be the future north-facing sliproads on 29 May 2016. Currently it has been laid out as a conventional T-junction, but eventually the onslip will curve left (see Pic 8), and the offslip curve right. A pair of green direction signs appear to have been rescued from somewhere nearby and press-ganged into use here. All traffic on the A26 ahead is using the northbound carriageway. The future southbound carriageway is beyond, though not in use. The central crash barrier has not yet been built. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 8: Looking slightly left from the same location as shown in Pic 7, this is what will evenually be the northbound onslip at Glarryford, seen on 29 May 2016, tarmacked but not carrying traffic. The two round holes at the bottom left likely mark a spot where tarmac samples have been removed for quality assurance checks, a routine procedure on new road schemes. The central pier of the future Glarryford flyover also appears in this shot. [Adrian Martin]

16 Apr 2016: Yesterday I had the pleasure of a tour of the A26 site facilitated by the contractor BAM/McCann. I want to particularly thank Rebecca Henderson and Laura Carse for spending two hours showing me various parts of the site, despite pouring rain and an icy wind, and for explaining many things in more detail. I also took a lot of photos, 14 of which I share below. Two weeks ago I put up some aerial photos (see previous update) that were supplied by the contractor, and those remain the best way to get an overview of how the site looks currently. However, the pictures I'm sharing in this update focus in on specific locations which are of interest. The photos are arranged (as usual) in order from south to north. The only location I didn't get a photo at was at the extreme north end of the scheme where there will be a roundabout at the A44 diverge. Currently the roundabout site has been "surcharged". This is done when building on soft ground - if the road were simply built on top of the soft ground, it would settle over a period of months and create bumps and cracks in the tarmac. Surcharging means building the base of the roundabout, but then adding hundreds more tonnes of material on top to make it so heavy that it speeds up its settlement into the soft ground. So that is what is happening currently, but after a suitable length of time (ie once the settlement rate slows to an acceptable level) the surcharge material will be removed and the roundabout will then be constructed. So from the road, it may just look like a big pile of earth, but it's actually an essential engineering process! Finally, FP McCann are keeping the official web site impressively up to date, so you can also visit this page every couple of weeks or so to see what's happening.


Pic 1: View south over the new Clogh River bridge south of Glarryford on 15 Apr 2016. The northbound carriageway, on the right where the people are, has had all but its final wearing course of tarmac laid. Northbound traffic is due to be re-routed over the bridge from the end of May 2016. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 2: Moving a few hundred metres further north to the site of the future overbridge at Glarryford Cross, this is the view south on 15 Apr 2016 with the northbound off/onslip pair on the right. Between the on and offslip a third area of tarmac has been laid, so it looks as if this is going to temporarily operate as a conventional T-junction as works progress. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 3: Same location as pic 2, but turning 180° round to look north, this is the central pier of the future flyover at Glarryford Cross as seen on 15 Apr 2016. It is now the only one of the three main flyovers on the scheme that has not had its beams installed. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 4: Machine laying a mixture of stones and cement between Glarryford Cross and the Frosses Trees on 15 Apr 2016. The road base is formed from a later of gravel, then a layer of this cement mixture, followed by several layers of tarmac. The metal spikes with the plastic caps are referred to by the machinery to ensure the surface is level. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 5: View north from close to the former petrol station between Glarryford Cross and the Big Frosses Trees on 15 Apr 2016. At this point the new road continues almost level into a cutting while the existing road climbs up on the right. The road has had its subsurface layer of stones laid, and is now awaiting further layers of stone/cement and then tarmac. Earthworks on the stretch bypassing the Big Frosses trees began in January, but has had to be suspended pending drier weather as this is such wet ground. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 6: This is the Lisnasoo Road bridge seen looking west on 15 Apr 2016, with its beams in place. The metal walkway to the left is temporary and is used by workers working to construct the road deck above. The current road runs left-right a few metres behind the camera and will be removed once the junction is completed. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 7: View under the Lisnasoo Road bridge on 15 Apr 2016. The first is that these four beams are craned into position. Next, the concrete panels are laid between them. These panels are called "permanent formwork" because they are put there to form the base of the road deck which will be poured from above, but will remain in situ once the deck is completed. The beams were made in Athlone and transported to the site on lorries. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 8: Series of "edge beams" waiting beside Lisnasoo Road bridge on 15 Apr 2016. These will form the edge of the bridge, and the bridge parapet will then be built on top of them. Each one looked to be about 3 or 4 metres long. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 9: View from the same location as pic 6 above (Lisnasoo Road bridge) but turning a little to the left, this is the view across the future dual-carriagway towards the future northbound off/onslip pair on 15 Apr 2016. Lisnasoo Road was previously a T-junction so the road will cross over the bridge, and then simply turn 180° round to join the northbound carriageway just here. The black pipes are for drainage along either side of the new dual-carriageway. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 10: The Cloghmills Water bridge (between Lisnasoo Road and Dumadoon Road junctions) completed on 15 Apr 2016, though the road base to either side is less advanced. The boulders on either side of the river channel are to prevent the river scouring away the bridge abutments over time - this river can apparently go from low flow (as seen here) to flood conditions (completely covering the rocks) in less than 15 minutes. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 11: The eight bridge beams for the Drumadoon Road (Logan's) flyover were put into place on the night of Saturday 9 April. This is the view looking south on 15 Apr 2016. Note how the triangular wingwall of the abutment on the left is suspended in the air, illustrating how the weight of the wingwall is supported by the front of the abutment, rather than being borne directly downwards into its own foundations. (A metal beam is in place under the wingwall during construction but will be removed.) When completed, a grass slope will come up to the black line, disguising this fact. Workers here are busy installing steel reinforcement bars above the bridge beams. When completed, concrete will be poured into place to form a single, cast bridge deck. The black material on the concrete bridge abutment is waterproofing that reduces the amount of moisture that penetrates the concrete, increasing its lifespan. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 12: First of three pictures taken from the same spot at the west side of the Drumadoon Road flyover on 15 Apr 2016. This is the view south along the line of the future dual-carriageway from Drumadoon Road flyover on 15 Apr 2016. The existing road will be rebuilt to form the future southbound carriageway, while the northbound carriageway will be built beside it, on the area of bare soil. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 13: Turning another 90° right from the previous shot, ie with Drumadoon Road flyover behind us, this is the view west along the future link road which will connect the two sides of the junction together, seen on 15 Apr 2016. Due to the undulating landscape, the road goes from the embankment where the photographer is, straight into a cutting and then joins Killagan Road roughly where the white/red posts are. [Wesley Johnston]


Pic 14: Finally, turning another 90° right, this is the view north along the future dual-carriageway from Drumadoon Road flyover on 15 Apr 2016. The existing road will be rebuilt to form the future southbound carriageway, while the northbound carriageway will be built beside it, on the area of land that has been taken from Logan's car park. [Wesley Johnston]

2 Apr 2016: We have just passed the first anniversary of work commencing on this scheme, and we are fortunate to have 13 more photos to show the current state of affairs. One of the contractors, FP McCann, kindly sent me a series of aerial photos that were taken about two weeks ago on 19th March, plus a shot of Lisnasoo Road bridge with its beams in place taken four days later. These are further supplemented by four photos of the Glarryford Cross junction taken by our very own Adrian Martin earlier this week, on 27th March. The photos are all shown below, arranged in order from south to north. For clarity, it is worth recapping that the scheme will have three grade-separated (ie, flyover) junctions along its length: at Glarryford Cross, at Lisnasoo Road and at Drumadoon Road (the last being the site of Logans Fashions). Between Glarryford Cross and Lisnasoo Road lie the two famous sets of Frosses Trees. The new dual-carriageway skirts to the side of these trees, switching from one side to the other between them. My grateful thanks to the folks at FP McCann and to Adrian Martin for making these photos available to everyone.


Pic 1. View south-east at the very south end of the scheme, just south of Glarryford Cross on 19 Mar 2016. On the left is the new bridge over the Clogh River, now structurally completed. A layer of tarmac has been laid on the future northbound carriageway and I would anticipate all traffic will get diverted onto this in the not-too-distant future. The layby shown already existed, but has been modified to have a single entrance/exit and a turning circle since the original exit is now too close to the offslip to Glarryford junction. All traffic is currently using the old "Newbridge Bridge", which will remain in situ for historical reasons, but will no longer carry a road. [FP McCann]

Pic 2: View of Glarryford Cross grade-separated junction on 19 March 2016, also looking south-east with the Clogh River bridge in the background. The line of the new dual-carriageway is very evident, with the current road running slightly to one side. Also visible is the central pillar of the future flyover, though neither of the two side abutments appears to have been constructed yet. The embankment on the west side of the road (bottom of the pic) is now completed and Station Road has been reinstated on top. Curling away from this towards the main A26 is the northbound off/on-slip, which is now also tarmacked. No work has yet taken place on the eastern side of the junction, presumably because the current road is in the way. [FP McCann]

Pic 3: Dropping down to ground level, this is the view south along the future northbound carriageway at Glarryford Cross on 27 March 2016, ie 8 days after the previous photo. It shows the same pillar that is visible in pic 2, showing that even more tarmac has been laid since the 19th. Again, I would expect to see all traffic diverted onto this stretch soon. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 4: Travelling along Station Road (which runs off the bottom right of pic 2) and then turning round, this is the view back up the new embankment towards the future Glarryford Cross flyover on 27 March 2016. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 5: Now walking forward from pic 4, up to the top of the embankment, this is the view across what will be the future flyover at Glarryford Cross. The main A26 runs left-right just beyond the pillar, and the road visible straight ahead is Springmount Road. The photographer is standing at the T-junction visible on the embankment in pic 2. This clearly shows that no works have yet taken place on the other side of the flyover. I would expect that to begin by the summer. 27 March 2016. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 6: Turning 90° to the right from roughly the same location as pic 5, this is the view south along what will be the off/on-slip for northbound traffic on 27 March 2016. The new A26 and the bridge over the Clogh River are visible in the distance. The tarmacking work here is very close to completion and looking nice and fresh. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 7: Back into the air again, and continuing north, this is the view of the new dual-carriageway taking shape between Glarryford Cross (beyond the bottom left) and the Frosses Trees (beyond the top right) on 19 March 2016, looking north-west. At this point the new road is entirely offline (ie, to one side of the existing road). The white lines are the drainage channels going in on either side of the new road. The existing road will remain in-situ here, to be used for access to houses, farmland and the filling station on the right. [FP McCann]

Pic 8: Going further north, this is the Big Frosses Trees seen looking north-west on 19 March 2016. The new dual-carriageway will bypass the Big Frosses on the east side (foreground here) but, although the land has clearly been fenced off for some months (judging by the overgrown grass) earthworks have so far not begun on this stretch. It's interesting, too, how sparse the Big Frosses looks from the air compared to how it looks when driving through. The Big Frosses will remain accessible as a northbound layby. [FP McCann]

Pic 9: Moving north beyond the Frosses Trees, this picture was taken four days after the aerial shots, on 23 March 2016, and shows the flyover at Lisnasoo Road grade-separated junction, seen looking south. This flyover is located off to one side of the existing road which remains in place on the left of this shot. The new road will run in a cutting here meaning that the flyover is roughly at ground level, and hard to see from the road. The bridge beams had just been craned into place on the day this image was taken, making it the most advanced of the three flyovers. The base of the new dual-carriageway can be seen heading south, towards the Frosses Trees, in the background. [FP McCann]


Pic 10: Moving further north, this is the view looking south-east of a stretch of the road between the Lisnasoo Road and Drumadoon Road (Logans) junctions on 19 March 2016. At this point the new road swings across the line of the current road since the new road has much gentler curves than the old road. This is because it has to take a more sweeping course through the landscape to facilitate its "design speed" of 70mph. The grey colour is the stone base for the road. You can see a digger and bulldozer cheerfully spreading it. [FP McCann]

Pic 11: Moving slightly further north (bulldozer on the right also appears in pic 10) this is the view south-east at the Cloghmills Water on 19 March 2016. The new bridge over the river is taking shape, though not yet completed. The bit of the existing road that bypasses the bridge will remain open as a southbound access road for the various properties visible here. The area of brown soil just to the right of centre (with the large puddles) is the top of a peat-filled Ice Age kettle hole, which I assume has had to be excavated and filled in again to make a sturdy base for the road. Just one of the challenges for engineers in a landscape that has been glaciated! [FP McCann]

Pic 12: Moving slightly further north again, this is the view north-west towards the Logans complex and the site of the future Drumadoon Road grade-separated junction on 19 March 2016. The future layout is obvious - the two T-junctions will be modified to become left-turn-only off- and on-slips, while a connecting road with a flyover will link the two sides together. Work seems to be underway on the abutments for the future bridge, while substantial earthworks are evident beyond Logans - these will allow the side road to be curved further out so as to get a gentler "swing" off the new road. [FP McCann]

Pic 13: Finally, this is the view north-west at Ballylig Road, between Drumadoon Road and the north end of the scheme at Drones Road, on 19 March 2016. At this point, the new road is being built on top of the old road, so you can see the future southbound carriageway being built here. The existing road will then be closed and rebuilt to form the northbound carriageway. The road with the white line running beside it at the bottom of the shot is a new local road that will give access to properties along here. Ballylig Road will remain open as a left-in/left-out only T-junction, as will the local road on the opposite side of the A26. [FP McCann]

13 Mar 2016: Three months on since the last update we have more photos, our thanks once again to Adrian Martin for taking the time to stop and photograph the scheme! We are fast approaching the first anniversary of commencement of the two-and-a-half year project and there's now a lot for drivers to see. Work has continued to progress well since the previous update. The pictures below particularly focus on the four main bridges on the scheme - the new bridge over the River Clogh, plus the flyovers for the three grade-separated junctions that are being provided on the upgraded road. Work on all three bridges is progressing well, with the Clogh River bridge now essentially completed. Before long I would expect to see traffic being diverted onto sections of new road to allow further works on the site of the existing road. Certainly I would expect to see traffic using the new River Clogh bridge before too much more time passes. Meanwhile, some excellent aerial photos dating from late last year have been put up on the contractor’s web site here.

Pic 1: View north-west on 6 Mar 2016 towards the northbound lay-by that sits just south of the Clogh River bridge. This layby already existed, but the exit at this end has been replaced with a turning circle so that vehicles now have to turn round and go back out the entrance. This is because the original exit now lies too close to the offslip to the future Glarryford Cross grade-separated junction, which is the line of white running left-right beyond the trees. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 2: On the right is the same lay-by shown in pic 1, but seen looking the other way, i.e. south. On the left is the future northbound carriageway which is now very advanced. It looks as if tarmac will be the next element to go down. The new Clogh River bridge is being built a short distance behind the camera. 6 Mar 2016. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 3: View north across the new Clogh River bridge on 6 Mar 2016 which now looks completed with what is likely a red waterproof course on top of the concrete bridge deck, and railings in place. Unlike the 1960s bridge it replaces, this bridge will carry both carriageways of the upgraded road. The line in the centre of the bridge is for attaching the central crash barrier. All traffic is currently using the 19th century Newbridge Bridge, which is off shot to the right. That bridge will remain in situ due to its historical significance, but it will not be used by traffic. The white line that curves to the left in the distance is the line of the northbound offslip to the Glarryford Cross grade-separated junction which is being built just ahead. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 4: Moving a bit further north, this is the view along the northbound offslip to the Glarryford Cross grade-separated junction on 6 Mar 2016, as seen from the existing road, which is still in situ here. The northbound onslip will run just to the right of the offslip and merge with the new dual-carriageway just to the right of the shot here. The earthen back that the slip roads are on is new - previously this spot was entirely flat and was home to a meander of the Clogh River, which was diverted at an earlier phase of the works. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 5: Walking up Springmount Road and then turning round and looking back towards Glarryford Cross. This is the view west with the existing A26 running left-right, with north to the right. It is hard to tell for sure from this angle, but the large pillar under construction is likely to be the central pillar of the future flyover which will connect the two halves of the future Glarryford Cross grade-separated junction. The huge approach embankment visible beyond the pillar has been built up from scratch. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 6: This is the view of the southbound onslip at the new Glarryford Cross grade-separated junction (which curves down from Springmount Road) on 6 Mar 2016. The future bridge is to the right of the shot here, which is looking north-east across the existing road. Unlike the northbound sliproads, which are being built on a new purpose-built embankment, the land on this side slopes up naturally so these sliproads are close to the original land level. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 7: Moving 3km north to the mid point of the dualling scheme, this is the view west from Lisnasoo Road on 6 Mar 2016. This will be the site of the second of three grade-separated junctions on the scheme. The new road runs slightly offline here, beyond the current A26 visible in the foreground. This has the advantage that the bridge for the future junction can be built without disruption to existing traffic. The far pillar you can see being built here is the west end of the future flyover, while the closer one is either the central pillar or the eastern one (the angle makes it hard to tell). The new road is due to run under this flyover well below the existing ground level, so we should see more excavations here in the coming months to lower the ground to level of the new road. The current stretch of A26 here, visible in the foreground, will be broken up and removed once the new road is completed. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 8: Finally, moving a further 2km north this is the site of the future Drumadoon Road grade-separated junction (known to most as the Logan’s junction) on 6 Mar 2016. Logan’s is directly behind the camera, and straight ahead you can see what will be the central pillar of the future flyover that will connect the two sides of the junction together. The existing road is on the left - this will later be reconstructed to become the southbound carriageway. The line of gravel on the right, behind the metal fences, is the edge of the future northbound carriageway which will run where the cylindrical pipe sections are lying. The flyover will be accessed via two approach embankments, which have yet to be completed. [Adrian Martin]

19 Dec 2015: Three months on from the previous update, we have more pictures - again from the amazing Adrian Martin who spent a lot of time photographing all parts of the scheme on 13 December. We're now over a quarter of the way into the project, and the pictures show that a lot of progress has been made since September. At the end of the existing dual-carriageway, the bridge beams for the new bridge over the Clogh River are in place and the bridge deck is being constructed on top. At Glarryford Cross, the approach embankment for the flyover is well developed on the western side, and foundations for the bridge abutments are also evident. Construction of the road bed around the two sets of Frosses Trees is also well advanced - this involves a lot more work than first appears, as the peat has to be systematically excavated from the bog, presumably to quite a depth, and replaced with gravel. Further north at Logans, the new dual-carriageway will follow the line of the existing road, and land has been taken on both sides of the existing road, including quite a slice of Logans' car park. And at the very north end, work on the foundations for the terminating roundabout at the A44 diverge is also very evident. The 11 pictures below are arranged in order from south to north. With grateful thanks on my behalf, and readers' behalf, to Adrian Martin.


Pic 1: The new bridge over the Clogh River as seen from the older (and now ironically named) Newbridge Bridge which used to carry the southbound A26. The new bridge seen here, which replaces the 1960s northbound Crankill Bridge, will carry the entire dual-carriageway. As seen on 13 Dec 2015 it has its beams in place, and the road deck is now being cast. Newbridge Bridge will remain in situ, but not carrying traffic, due to its historical value in the local area. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 2: View west across Glarryford Cross on 13 Dec 2015, with the A26 running left-right. The area of earth above the red sign on the right is the developing approach embankment which will lead eventually to the future flyover (see pic 4 below). The bridge will be situated where the metal fences can be seen to the right of centre and will run across towards where the photographer is standing. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 3: View south at Glarryford Cross showing the foundations for the western side of the future flyover now in place. The heavy machinery is on the former northbound carriageway, now closed. The existing dual-carriageway extended a short way through Glarryford Cross here but is being reconstructed as part of the upgrade. 13 Dec 2015. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 4: View east towards Glarryford Cross from Station Road on 13 Dec 2015. Station Road has been completely buried by the huge approach embankment seen here, which leads to the future flyover, but the road will be rebuilt on top. The road seen on the left is actually a recently-built temporary access road that gives access to Station Road during the upgrade and will later be removed. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 5: Moving north this is the view north along the "Wee Frosses Trees" on 13 Dec 2015. The existing road is on the right - the trees were originally planted to stabilise the road through the bog. The new dual-carriageway runs entirely to the left, leaving the trees in situ - the road through the Wee Frosses will become a southbound layby. The road bed on the left was built by excavating thousands of tonnes of peat, which is no mean feat. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 6: Moving even further north, this is the view south from near Lisnasoo Road on 13 Dec 2015. The trucks are located at what will be the site of the flyover for the Lisnasoo Road grade-separated junction, one of three along the scheme. The new road runs to one side of the current road here, so the bare soil on the right is actually the line of the future dual-carriageway. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 7: Further north again, this is the bridge that will carry the dual-carriageway over the Cloghmills Water. The bridge abutments were still being constructed on 13 Dec 2015. This bridge will carry the entire dual-carriageway here: the existing road on the right will remain as a short length of layby for accessing private properties. Just south of the area shown here the new road runs directly over a peat-filled Ice Age kettle hole, which will present an interesting challenge for the engineers. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 8: View south from Logan's on 13 Dec 2015. The area on the right was formerly Logans' car park, but the new fence on the right shows how much of this land has been vested to fit a four-lane dual-carriageway through this restricted space. The future flyover for the Drumadoon Road grade-separated junction, the third of three on the scheme, will be located about 200m ahead of the photographer here, but work on this still seems to be at an early stage. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 9: Same view as previously, but turning 180° around, this is Logans on 13 Dec 2015. It is business as usual for this well-regarded company, but as you can see a good chunk of their car park is being taken to build the wider road. The photographer is standing in what will eventually be the middle of the northbound carriageway. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 10: Moving even further north beyond Logans now, this is the view north from near Ballylig Road on 13 Dec 2015. At this point the road is being widened entirely on the east side, so the photographer is on the future southbound carriageway while the existing A26 (where the car is) will be subsumed by the northbound carriageway. The house shown here is not being demolished but appears to have been derelict before the work began. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 11: Finally, this is the view north from the A26/A44 diverge on 13 Dec 2015. The A26 towards Ballymoney runs out of view to the left of shot, while the A44 towards Ballycastle runs to the right (where the white sign is). The T-junction where the two meet is located just behind the photographer. The A44 will meet the upgraded A26 at a new roundabout which will be located directly in front of the photographer - so this is presumably the foundation work underway for the future roundabout. (Incidentally, the aforementioned white sign should be green as the A44 was made a primary route a couple of decades ago - the wheels move slowly in the DRD sometimes! Let's hope the upgraded road features the correct green signage for the A44.) [Adrian Martin]

16 Sep 2015: In the month since the previous update a lot has happened on the scheme. At Glarryford, the earthworks for the approach embankments for the new flyover junction are now very advanced (pics 1, 2), and the huge scale of them visually dominates the area when driving through. There is still no sign of work on the bridge abutments themselves, but there is still plenty of time for that. Most of the heavy plant machinery has now been moved north to Lisnasoo Road (pics 4, 5), where the next major flyover junction is to be built, so presumably we are going to be seeing major earthworks there in the coming weeks. An accommodation road is being built to provide alternative access to property along the new road here. At the Frosses Trees (between Glarryford and Lisnasoo Road), which the new road will completely bypass (east of the "Big Frosses" and west of the "Wee Frosses"), the foundations of the new road are now very evident off to one side (pic 3). The two sets of Frosses Trees will be preserved in the form of laybys, as it was not possible to upgrade the road through them. The pictures below were all taken three days ago by Adrian Martin (thank you once again) and are arranged in order from south to north.


Pic 1: Taken from the B64 Station Road, this is the view north-east towards Glarryford Cross on 13 Sep 2015. The main A26 is now obscured by the embankment but it runs left-right in front of the small white house to the left of centre. This is the approach embankment to the future flyover. It looks to me as if the old Station Road has simply been buried in situ, which will be something interesting for future generations to dig up! Compare this to the photo taken at the same location a month ago in the previous update below. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 2: It is hard to believe that this is the view south along the A26 at what was, until recently, Glarryford Cross. Taken on 13 Sep 2015, the sign in the foreground is actually the "Give Way" sign sited at the point Station Road (which ran to the right) met the main northbound A26 (on which the photographer is standing!). You can see this sign before the recent works in Google Streetview, which will allow you to get your bearings. The curved embankment ahead is the future northbound onslip from the flyover which will eventually pass overhead just a few metres beyond the sign. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 3: Further north, this is the view northbound approaching the "Wee Frosses", ie the shorter of the two stretches of trees, on 13 Sep 2015. The new dual-carriageway will entirely bypass the Wee Frosses to the left here, and the foundations for this are already taking shape. This area is composed of soft peat which presumably had to be excavated or otherwise stabilised to be able to take the weight of the new road without subsiding. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 4: View north along the A26 at Lisnasoo Road on 13 Sep 2015. This is the site of the second flyover junction, and large amounts of earth moving equipment have been moved to this vicinity in the past week or two, so expect to see major work here soon. The flyover itself will be behind the photographer, but the wider new road will occupy the area in the left foreground when finished. The small roadway under construction on the left (under the striped poles) is an accommodation road which will eventually give access to fields and houses since most direct accesses onto the new road will be closed up for safety reasons. This accommodation road will join the main road network at Lisnasoo Road junction. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 5: At Lisnasoo Road a veritable army of heavy plant equipment sits waiting for use on 13 Sep 2015. [Adrian Martin]

19 Aug 2015: Four months since the previous update, and five months since the project began and we have more photos, thanks to Adrian Martin. These pictures are all taken at or near Glarryford Cross, a staggered crossroads at the very south end of the scheme. (This focus on Glarryford is not to imply that this is the only place where work is taking place, but because this is the part of the site Adrian visited - thank you!). Just to the south-west of Glarryford Cross is where the current A26 dual-carriageway from Ballymena ends. The two carriageways crossed over the Clogh river on two separate bridges, a 1960s one and a 19th century one (see previous update). All traffic has now been diverted onto the 19th century bridge, rather confusingly called Newbridge Bridge, and the 1960s Crankill Bridge has now been demolished. Work will presumably start soon on its replacement, a much wider bridge that will carry the entire new dual-carriageway. About half a km north-west of these bridges is Glarryford Cross itself, which was at the very end of the old dual-carriageway. Again, all traffic is now using the southbound carriageway here. It is to be replaced by a compact grade-separated junction with an overbridge. Unfortunately a loop of the Clogh river was in the way of the approach embankment for the bridge, so this has now been cut off, as shown in the photos below. I have included a map below in case it helps to illustrate what I'm trying to say here. Finally, earthworks have begun with at least one of the approach roads, Station Road, diverted to allow work on the embankment for the bridge to commence. Regular users of the route have noted that the past month has seen significant changes here. In July work was briefly disrupted when workers discovered armaments along the site of the scheme. The pictures below were all taken by Adrian Martin. The first two were taken on 26 July, and the rest on or near 15 August.


Map of the proposed layout at Glarryford Cross overlaid on a map of the current arrangement. The inconvenient loop of the Clogh River is shown by a blue line, and the cut through the loop marked in a thin black line. North is to the bottom right. Roads Service map from here.

Pic 1: The closed northbound carriageway of the A26 seen from Glarryford Cross on 26 July 2015 with B64 Station Road to the right. All traffic is using the southbound carriageway, which is not visible beyond the left of the machinery. The pile on the right appears to be pieces of broken-up road surface, perhaps from the demolished bridge? (see below). [Adrian Martin]

Pic 2: Excavation of the cut through the meander of the Clogh River underway but not yet completed on 26 July 2015. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 3: Now moving ahead to 15 August 2015, this is the view heading north-west from Ballymena about half a mile south of Glarryford Cross where all traffic has to switch over to the southbound carriageway. This is not merely to convenience the contractor - the bridge for the northbound carriageway is now gone, which is a good reason to avoid driving on it! [Adrian Martin]

Pic 4: View of the recently-demolished 1960s Crankill Bridge on 15 August 2015, which used to carry the northbound carriageway. This will be replaced by a wider, modern structure that will carry the entire road. Taken from the 19th century Newbridge Bridge which will remain in situ, but not in use as a through road, for historical reasons. The pipe-like structure is presumably there to accommodate services such as water or telephone lines that run along the road. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 5: The "cut" in the loop of the Clogh River complete and in use on 15 August 2015, with the original course of the river on the left now completely filled in. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 6: Switching onto the B64 Station Road, this is the view north-east towards Glarryford Cross on 15 August 2015. The road has been diverted, as the area to the right ahead is to become the site of the approach embankment for the future flyover. A lot of trees have been felled here; the site looks very different than it did a few months ago when the house on the hill ahead was barely visible from here. [Adrian Martin]

Pic 7: View north-west, towards Ballymoney, along what was the northbound carriageway of the A26, on 15 August 2015. All traffic is using the southbound carriageway on the right. This was the spot where the existing dual-carriageway finally ended and the single-carriageway to Ballymoney began. The wires with flags are to warn construction workers of the overhead cables. [Adrian Martin]

17 Apr 2015: Work got underway properly on 30th March, following the DRD Minister officially cutting the first sod on the scheme on 26 March. You can see photos from the ceremony on the FP McCann web site here (part of the BAM/McCann consortium who are building the road). The most obvious change from the point of view of drivers is that the last half mile or so of the existing dual-carriageway approaching Glarryford has been coned down to one lane, and a contra-flow put in, presumably because this part of the dual-carriageway is being modified as part of the works. This is shown in picture 1 below, shared by Adrian Martin (thank you). At Glarryford crossroads itself, earth moving equipment was evident on the day of Adrian's visit (picture 2). This will be the site of one of the future grade-separated junctions so is probably related to that. People who travel this road will know that northbound traffic uses the modern 1960s Crankill Bridge, while southbound traffic uses the original (late 19th century?) Newbridge Bridge. The plan is to widen replace Crankill Bridge to carry both carriageways of the upgraded road. Newbridge Bridge will then be closed to vehicles, but is to be preserved in-situ because it has historical significance (rather like old Shaw's Bridge in Belfast). With thanks also to Will Hughes for updates on progress.


View north along the last part of the existing dual-carriageway approaching Glarryford crossroads on 5 April 2015. Both carriageways have been reduce to one lane. Workers are creating a crossover on the right, presumably to facilitate a contra-flow. [Adrian Martin]

View north along the existing A26 at the Station Road (Glarryford) junction on 5 April 2015. This will be site of a new grade-separated junction, so expect to see major earthworks taking shape here in the coming months. [Adrian Martin]

25 Mar 2015: VMS signage on the site indicates that work proper will get underway on this scheme on Monday, 30th March. Someone "in the know" has told me that the preliminary work that has taken place up until now has included "cone penetration testing", which would be the contractor finding out more about the structure of the ground at various locations. With thanks to three different people who contacted me with the information about the VMS signage - much appreciated. We can look forward to seeing work progress. Completion is due around August 2017 based on a construction period of 28 months.

11 Mar 2015: According to a Question for Written Answer in the Assembly last week, the contractor did indeed begin moving material and equipment onto the site in February as reported below. However, construction work "proper" will not begin until April. With an estimated construction period of 28 months, this would now place completion in August 2017. The written answer also states that the contract formally began on 19 January 2015.

28 Feb 2015: Since the previous update there has been no further sign of work, so my declaration of work being underway in early February may have been premature! There was a Written Answer in the Assembly on this topic two weeks ago. It has emerged that "Following contract award, a dispute arose between the contractor and the Department. Despite this, BAM/McCann remained the most economically advantageous tenderer." This presumably refers to a disagreement that has now been resolved, but it may have delayed the commencement of scheme which we had previously expected to have begun by now. The Written Answer says that main construction works are now due to begin in "March/April 2015". Finally, it also confirms that the overall construction cost is still estimated to be £55m, so whatever the dispute was it doesn't seem to have affected the cost much. It will be good to see the project begin. Ten days ago the same contractor was awarded the construction contract for the A31 Magherafelt Bypass, which means they'll be working on both schemes simultaneously.

7 Feb 2015: Thanks to Gregor Kerr who was driving this way and spotted folks in high-vis jackets on site, and also reported that heavy machinery seemed to be arriving on site at Glarryford on Thursday. This sounds very much like the contractor (BAM McCann) gearing up to begin work, which is right on cue. Therefore I have moved this scheme from "future schemes" to "under construction". Hurrah! If the construction takes 28 months as suggested in October, then we should see completion by June 2017.

28 Jan 2015: Work on this scheme does not yet seem to have started. I contacted TransportNI a couple of weeks ago and they told me that work was actually scheduled to begin in February 2015 (not December as indicated in the press release in October), so we can expect it to begin any time. Over the past day or two TransportNI has moved the scheme to the "currently underway" list, but as I haven't ascertained whether or not the work is underway I will not move it just yet! Note that the DRD's web site is giving the cost as "£50-57m" which differs from what the DRD Minister said in December 2013 – that the total cost was "£65m". However, it's possible that the winning tender came in less than estimated which could account for this. We will presumably find out in due course.

31 Oct 2014: Great news for this scheme - the contractor BAM/McCann consortium was awarded the construction contract for this scheme on 21 October. This was accompanied by a press release on 29 October giving more details. The total value of the contract is given as £55m, which may not include not borne by the contractor, eg vesting of land, which is likely the reason why this is less than the overall estimated project cost of £65m. Work is likely to start "by the end of this year", which I would take to mean December, and will take 28 months, meaning completion is due in April 2017. Regular users of the road will start to see evidence of the contractor gearing up for work in the coming weeks. This will start with the establishment of site yards at appropriate points. Vegetation clearance and fencing off of the vested land has already been carried out during the year, so the first step will probably be the commencement of some of the earthworks. The DRD press release suggests that this web page will carry updates as work progresses.


Official DRD photo for the award of contract, showing the DRD Minister Danny Kennedy (centre) with Hugh McCann (seated, left) and William Diver (seated, right) from the appointed contactor BAM/McCann consortium.

25 Jul 2014: In the previous update I mentioned how preliminary site works would be taking place during 2014. People driving past will have noticed trees disappearing and new fences being erected. These fences separate the land vested by the DRD from the land still owned by private landowners, and are sometimes replaced by more permanent fences after the works are complete. The work also includes archaeological investigations. Doing this now reduces the changes of high-profile hold-ups, such as the well-publicised delays to the A32 Cherrymount Link in Enniskillen two years ago following the discovery of a significant crannog. The archaeological works have been taking place and a month ago Roads Service (or TransportNI as they are now called) revealed that they had found significant artefacts, including an early Christian souterrain. Here is an article in the Belfast Telegraph on the topic. The scheme is still out to tender, with the contractor currently expected to be appointed "in the autumn" with work presumably to start almost straight away.

20 Jan 2014: According to the DRD, and advance site works contract is to get underway on this scheme next week. This work is separate from the main construction contract which is still in the early part of the tendering process and won't go to ground until the autumn. The work involves three tasks which must take place before the main work begins. Firstly, they will be installing fences along all the land that has now been purchased from landowners along the route. This will make the boundary of the site clear to both the landowners and the eventual contractor. They almost invariably consist of wooden posts with wire stretched between them. Secondly, they will be conducting vegetation clearance, especially the removal of trees and hedgerows which are problematic to remove later in the year since there is legislation about disturbing nesting birds. This means less work for the eventual contractor who can immediately start into service diversions and earthworks. Thirdly, they will be stripping off topsoil, especially anywhere where archaeology is suspected to exist. DRD have a statutory duty to investigate any archaeology that is found or suspected to exist, and doing this work now reduces the chances of a later discovery delaying the scheme. I have not yet marked the scheme as "underway", as this advance site works contract is not the main contract and thus can't really count as the project beginning. As said above, we can expect this in the autumn.

8 Dec 2013: The scheme has now been put out to tender (on the DRD web site and on the EU tenders web page). This first tender is actually part one of a two part process, in which construction firms bid to be included on a selected list of firms that will be invited to submit a more detailed bid in the second round. This is done to prevent a situation where dozens and dozens of companies who have no chance of winning the work submit detailed bits and waste everyone's time. In this first round the companies have to demonstrate that they have the means, skill and have realistic expectations on what is involved to complete the work. Construction companies have until 28 January 2014 to submit their bids for inclusion. After that the second part of the tender process - the more detailed bidding - will be advertised. The selection of a contractor typically takes about nine months from now, so we're likely to see the winner appointed in autumn 2014 with work likely to begin almost straight away. This is good news for the construction sector as well as users of this road. Amended 9 Dec: The DRD Minister, in a Question for Written Answer in the Assembly, has confirmed that the current estimated cost of the scheme is £65m.

4 Dec 2013: Two days ago Roads Service finally published the outcome of the Public Inquiry and their response to it, known as the Departmental Statement. All the documents can be accessed here. While quite a few objections were made to the scheme, the Inspector made only minor recommendations which were all accepted in substance by Roads Service. These generally related to the impact on individual landowners near the scheme, and would be important to them, but do not have a significant impact on the scheme which will proceed more or less as planned. The construction tender is due to be released this month. It normally takes about 9 month from publication of a tender to construction work commencing, which is in keeping with Roads Service's own reference to work beginning in "late 2014". (While everything has been done above board and within the rules, I do think it was slightly bad form for the DRD Minister to have announced that the scheme would proceed prior to the public inquiry report being published. While it wouldn't have made any material difference in this case, the DRD needs to avoid giving the impression that public inquiries are mere "rubber stamp" exercises.) The inspector's report alludes to a plan by Logan's (a large retail operation on the route to be upgraded) to build a park-and-share facility on their property in apparent competition with Roads Service's planned similar facility which would be located nearby on the other side of the A26. The report was written some months ago, however, so the situation has probably moved on since then.

30 Oct 2013: Roads Service have now confirmed that my predictions in the last update were pretty close! Subject to the outcome of the public inquiry, construction will begin in "late 2014" and will last approximately 24 months. This means that we will see the road completed late 2016, three years from now. DRD have also stated that the public inquiry report and their response to it (the Departmental Statement) will be published "in the coming weeks". Finally Arup, the company designing the road for Roads Service, have put up a fabulous simulation of a journey northbound along the finished road on YouTube. Well worth a look, and enough to whet the appetite of anyone who endures this road regularly. If you want to see more detailed plans of the proposed road, click here.

21 Oct 2013: In the previous update (see below) I commented that I would be surprised if this scheme managed to proceed to construction ahead of the desperately-needed A6 Randalstown to Castledawson scheme. Well today I am surprised, because that is exactly what has happened. Today in the Assembly funding was announced that funding was being given to commence construction of this scheme "in 2014/15", ie it would begin any time from April 2014 to April 2015, so between 6 and 18 months from now. It seems slightly odd to have announced that a scheme is going to proceed before the outcome of the public inquiry has even been published, but this suggests that the inquiry inspector has recommended that the scheme proceed. I would anticipate that the public inquiry report and DRD's response (the "Departmental Statement") will be published in the near future. After that the scheme will probably proceed rapidly to procurement, a process which typically takes around 9 months, while the Vesting Order (to acquire the land) will also proceed. So in a best-case scenario we could be looking at work commencing in the autumn of 2014. No timescale has yet been given, but I would expect that construction of a scheme like this would probably take roughly two years, perhaps a bit more. I have also written a piece weighing up the decision to proceed with this scheme against the A6 over on my blog.

16 Sep 2013: There is still no sign of the publication of the report into the Public Inquiry that took place in November 2012 - DRD have now had the report in their possession for about 4 months. This is not an unusual length of time by any means, but I would like to think that we will see it, and their response (the "Departmental Statement"), published in the not-too-distant future. There are hints of other movements behind the scenes. In the last update I suggested that this scheme might benefit from the delay to the A5 dualling scheme. In a Written Answer published today, the DRD Minister certainly seems to be of this mind. He said "I have heavily promoted this scheme in the 2014/15 Capital Budget Exercise, and will continue to do so in the forthcoming October Monitoring Round, with a view to securing the funds to allow construction to commence in 2014/15." The DRD don't get money to spend on whatever major construction schemes they want. Rather, they have to ask for money for individual construction projects, and these compete on merit with bids from other Departments in the NI Executive, like Education and Health. The 2013/14 budget is already set (the A31 Magherafelt Bypass being one of the beneficiaries) so the 2014/15 budget round is the next available tranche of money. The DRD Minister seems to see this scheme as his priority for this funding round. He also details some of his apparent struggles with the Finance Minister in this way: "After initially declining the meeting [about funding the A26 scheme], I am happy to report that the Finance Minister has now recognised the importance of an early discussion on this issue, he has agreed to a meeting and we are due to meet in the near future." The DRD Minister had been specifically asked about the A26 scheme in this Written Answer, so he did not comment in this level of detail on other proposed road schemes. However, and not to diminish the advantages of this scheme, I would be surprised if it managed to proceed to construction ahead of the desperately-needed A6 Randalstown to Castledawson scheme.

27 May 2013: In the last update I noted that the Inspector at November's Public Inquiry was to have submitted her report to the DRD early in 2013, and according to this press release this now seems to have happened. The next stage will be the DRD's response, which will take the form of a Departmental Statement, which will take a few months to analyse and draft. Both it and the Inspector's report will then be published at once. It is just as well that the legal process is progressing, as this scheme seems to be one of those that *may* benefit from the delay in the A5 scheme. In the Assembly last week, the "Roads" Minister said "The situation is such that we now have to look at other potential schemes that can be brought forward. I have indicated that I am doing that in conjunction with Executive colleagues, principally the Finance Minister, and we will continue to do that. The schemes that are most procurement-ready include the A26 Glarryford scheme,... the A6 [Randalstown to Castledawson] scheme, the Magherafelt bypass and the A55 [Outer Ring widening at Knock] scheme in Belfast." There is, of course, no guarantee that this scheme will actually get the go-ahead, and of all those listed it is the furthest from being able to go to ground, but at least it's being considered.

11 Feb 2013: The minutes of a Roads Service meeting held in December, but only just published indicate that the Inspector at November's Public Inquiry will submit her report to the DRD "early in 2013". The DRD will have to take time to consider this, and will then publish both the report and their response (the "Departmental Statement"), presumably in a few months' time.

12 Dec 2012: The minutes of a Roads Service meeting held in June, but only just published, confirm that the estimated cost of this scheme has now been pinned down at £61m (as opposed to the range £50m-£70m). The Public Inquiry happened in November as planned. I would not expect to hear more on this for at least a year. The Inspector has to write her report, and then the DRD has to study it and respond.

8 Sep 2012: The DRD have announced that the Public Inquiry will begin at 10am on 5 November 2012, at the Tullyglass Hotel, Galgorm Road, Ballymena, BT42 1HJ. The Inspector will be Ms Eileen Brady. I would urge everyone with an interest in the scheme to turn up, as this is a crucial opportunity to have your concerns heard. The recent A5 public inquiry resulted in dozens and dozens of tweaks to address the concerns of landowners.

24 Jun 2012: As expected, the DRD Minister has announced that a Public Inquiry will be held into this scheme. It has only attracted 20 objections during the consultation period that ended in May 2012, but nevertheless Roads Service feel it appropriate to convene an Inquiry. It will probably be held in early November. There is currently no financial commitment to actually build the scheme, but it is important to keep progressing the scheme so that it is 'good to go' if and when money becomes available.

20 Mar 2012: The draft legal documents have just been published, a good bit later than anticipated last summer (see previous update). This includes a summary of the Environmental Statement (a document that has to be created to set out the pros and cons of the scheme); the draft Trunk Road Order (required to permit Roads Service to construct a new trunk road); the draft Vesting Order (which allows Roads Service to compel landowners to sell the land required); and a draft Stopping-Up Order (which allows Roads Service to compel some landowners to stop using direct accesses onto the A26). The first of these documents contains a map of the road as currently proposed. A public exhibition setting out the current position will be held at the Tullyglass House Hotel (178 Galgorm Road, Ballymena, Co Antrim BT42 1HJ) from 2pm to 9pm on 27 and 28 March 2012. I would urge all those with any interest in the scheme to turn up and talk to the Roads Service representatives. Any formal comments must be received by 11 May 2012. Comparing the preferred route map from 2008 with the map published now, the main change is to the design of the Killagan Road/Drumadoon Road compact grade separated junction (known to most people as the location of Logan's Fashions), where it seems more use will be made of the existing road network than originally planned. Presumably there will be a Public Inquiry: at this stage, a date in the autumn seems plausible, although nothing has been said officially. Note that there is currently no budget allocation to build this scheme - but it is being progressed through all these design and legal processes to that it is 'good to go' if and when money becomes available at a future date.

4 Jul 2011: The Minister has now said that the draft legal documents required to build the road will be published "later this year", and that a Public Inquiry will likely be held in Spring 2012. This is the first official indication that a Public Inquiry is expected within the next year, although it was mooted unofficially late last year (see previous update).

30 Dec 2010: In response to a written request for an update on this scheme, the Regional Development Minister gave an update on progress. He said that "it is planned to publish the Draft Orders early in 2011/12" (a milestone previously given as "mid 2011"). Construction is still far off, with the Minister saying only that subject to finance it "could" commence before 2018. I have been in indirect contact with a landowner affected by the scheme who tells me that he was contacted in mid November to say that the scheme is progessing as planned with the draft orders due to be processed by "late spring or early summer". He was told that while negotiations have gone well with most landowners, a few remain unhappy. A public inquiry was mooted for 2012.

2 May 2010: Roads Service have updated the costs on their web site, with the cost of the scheme being revised up from £52m to the range £50m-£70m. There is no change to the timescale.

22 Feb 2010: In a written answer in the Assembly, the Regional Development Minister has said that although this scheme is in the final stages of the assessment process, the next milestone (publication of legal documents) has been pushed back to "mid 2011", more than a year later than he stated in March 2009 (see below). Although this is a substantial delay, it will probably make no material difference to road users since construction has always been anticipated to be towards 2018 anyway.

18 Mar 2009: In a written answer in the Assembly, the Regional Development Minister has said the Enviromental Statement and draft orders (such as land aquisition) will be published during the 2009/10 financial year, ie by April 2010. He also confirmed that construction is not anticpated until the "latter part" of the investment period, ie in the 5-10 year timeframe.

2 Feb 2009: Roads Service released a leaflet about the scheme in November 2008. It summarises the scheme in its current form, including a map of the current design. It notes that "The ‘Preferred Route’ is now being developed which involves undertaking statutory procedures for environment,
planning and land acquisition and will lead to the publication of mandatory Draft Orders and an Environmental Statement. The ‘Investment Delivery Plan for Roads’ estimates that this scheme will be delivered within the period 2013 to 2018.
" It could thus be quite a few years before work commences.

11 Aug 2008: The preferred route has been announced - the entirely online Blue Route. The scheme also features three compact grade separated junctions which will lead to major safety improvements, and probably accounts for the fact that the price has risen from £33m in 2006 to £52m today. See above for more details.

24 Apr 2008: According to an Assembly written answer, the Department of Regional Development expects to announce the preferred route "around mid 2008". The process to decide between the five route options is still ongoing.

July 2006: The cost of £22.9m publicised in 2005 had increased to £33m by the time this public consultation was released in July 2006.

Photos

The beautiful "Frosses Trees" section of the A26 Frosses Road near Clogh Mills where trees are lined close along each side. Taken looking north in late August 2006. This stretch will be preserved as a lay-by. [Photo by Aubrey Dale]