A28 Armagh East Link

 

Status
Construction scheme (future)
Where
To connect the A28 Markethill Road, Armagh to the A3 Portadown Road via the A51 Hamiltonsbawn Road.
Total Length
2.2 km / 1.4 miles
Dates

Proposed in Armagh Area Plan - 2004
Public information day held - March 2006
Stage 1 Assessment completed - August 2006

Preferred Route Announced - 20 March 2007
Scheme approved in principle - 14 Nov 2011
Stage 2 Approval given - Mar 2012
Public consultation event and review announced - 11 June 2014
Repeat Stage 1 Assessment completed and repeat Stage 2 assessment begun - by May 2016
Repeat Stage 2 Scheme Assessment completed - Aug 2019

Cost
£18.5m as of Aug 2019
(changed from £24.6m as of Nov 2011 and £6.0m as of Nov 2006)
Photos
None as yet - please contact me if you have any to contribute.
See Also

General area map - Google Earth
Official web site on scheme - Roads Service

Armagh North and West Link on this site

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

The Armagh East Link is proposed to connect the main A28 route (from Armagh to Newry and Dublin) to the main A3 route (from Armagh to Portadown and Belfast) without having to go into the city centre. It complements the Armagh North and West Link which is in a more advanced stage of planning - see link above. Construction of the scheme is not anticipated in the short term at the time of writing (April 2012) but work is progressing well.

Route

The route as adopted in 2007, and confirmed in 2019, uses existing roads in two places - the Ardmore Road in the south and part of Hamiltonsbawn Road Industrial Estate in the north. The map below also shows the three routes considered in 2019 - the chosen route is shown in blue. The red and green routes were considered but rejected as too expensive for the benefits gained.

Route map of proposed A28 Armagh East
                          Link

The official DFI Roads description of the route is as follows:

"This option commences at the junction of A28 Markethill Road and Ardmore Road to the south, extending northwards to the proposed junction with A3 Portadown Road west of Linsey’s Hill. This option utilises the existing Ardmore Road, the road through Hamiltonsbawn Road Industrial Estate and part of Linsey’s Heights Road. This option provides a junction with A51 Hamiltonsbawn Road and is likely to incorporate a staggered junction to facilitate access to Ballynahonemore Road."

Updates

21 Sep 2019: DFI published their Stage 2 assessment of the scheme on 20 August 2019. As a reminder, this is the *second time* the Stage 2 assessment has been carried out. The last time was in 2012, but the work has been re-done due to the time that has elapsed, and also as a result of public feedback which wanted DFI Roads to consider a route termining further to the east at the south end, near Edenaveys Industrial Estate, rather than in the more residential area around Ardmore Road. DFI have now looked at three options - shown on the map above. The first of these, the "blue" route, is the same 2.2 km route considered and approved in 2012. The second one, the "red" route, starts in the same place at the north, but then curves more the east to end at Edenaveys. It's thus longer at 3 km. The third one, the "green" route, shifts the entire route further to the east at both the north and the south. It also includes, for unclear reasons, a local realignment of the A51 Hamiltonsbawn Road part way along. This route is 2.9 km long. The report then carries out a benefit/cost calculation for each route. The costs are the design costs + land costs + planning costs + construction costs. The benefits are the economic benefits over 15 years to members of the public + benefits to business + savings from fewer crashes. The idea is that the benefits should outweigh the costs. It's presented as a ratio of benefits/costs (the BCR), so any figure above 1 indicates a scheme that brings more benefits than it costs. The results were: Blue route 1.359; Red route 0.958; Green route 0.388. That means that only the blue route is "worth building" from an economic point of view, though a ratio of 1.359 is itself not huge (it means there will be £1.36 of benefits over 15 years for every £1 spent on it). At the same time, the total cost of the blue route is now estimated at £18.5m, which is actually less than the figure of £24.6m quoted in 2011. DFI have, therefore, decided that the original route is still the correct one. Finally, it should be pointed out that there is currently no funding for this scheme, and no indication that it is even on the radar for funding, so I would not expect to see any movement toward construction in the near future.

14 Oct 2017: The DFI's most recent report to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council in September 2017 appears to be largely a copy-and-paste job from the May 2016 report that I quoted in the previous update. It says pretty much the exact same thing, except that the "Stage 2" report is now due to be completed in "summer 2017" rather than "autumn 2016" as they said last year. The only thing that has been added is a somewhat vague promise that "a public event will be scheduled over the coming months". All of this gives me the impression that very little is actually happening with this scheme, which does not appear to be a priority within DFI, expecially given the Executive's stated focus on the A5 and A6.

9 Oct 2016: In their report to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council in May 2016 TransportNI gave us an update on this scheme. To recap, a preferred route was finalised 2007 but it was not built. In June 2014 there was a public consultation event which was probably intended to get public endorsment for revisiting the design, since the standards we have for bypasses today are much higher than they were even ten years ago, and tend to involve fewer junctions and greater distances from the built up area. The evolution of the A31 Magherafelt and A29 Cookstown Bypasses are good examples. The review has been ongoing, probably at a fairly relaxed pace, since then. TransportNI have now said that the review is complete and that it "included consideration of the preferred corridor emerging further out the A28 Markethill Road at the Edenaveys Industrial Estate and has identified viable alternative options". They then say that "are now subject to a stage 2 assessment before a preferred option can be confirmed. It is anticipated that this assessment will be completed in Autumn 2016". Note that it does not say that anything will actually be revealed to the public once the stage 2 assessment is completed. Given that the Infrastructure Minister seems keen on progressing the A5 and A6 schemes as his highest priority, and that he has explicitly mentioned two other bypasses (Enniskillen and Ballynahinch) that he wants to build, my feeling is that provision of this road is still some years in the future.

8 Jun 2015: The DRD Minister was asked about this scheme via a Written Answer in the Assembly in April 2015. As noted in the previous update, TransportNI held a consultation event in June 2014, the tone of which made it obvious that they wanted to revisit the design of the scheme. They do indeed seem to have been carrying out review work: in his answer, the DRD Minister said "my officials have been carrying out a review of the Preferred Corridor for the proposal. This review, which has included updating the traffic and environmental surveys, is expected to be completed in the coming months". Past experience shows that when the DRD Minister says "the coming months", it can actually mean a year or more, so I wouldn't expect anything imminently. He also says that the cost is now estimated at £12-20m, which is actually less than the figure of £24.6m that was being quoted in 2011 which is strange given that road scheme costs tend to rise with time, not fall. But we shall have to wait and see what emerges from the review process.

5 Sep 2014: In my update in June (below) I commented that the public exhibition didn't say much new and seemed geared towards creating public awareness of a scheme that has been parked for several years. However it seems that the exhibition resulted in negative feedback for the designers from local residents. This is based on a press release issued today where the DRD Minister has said that the preferred route will be "reviewed" in light of this feedback, and in particular that it "will include consideration of the preferred corridor emerging further out the Markethill Road at the Edenaveys Industrial Estate area". It also notes that it will "include updating key project information such as traffic volumes and environmental surveys". Reading between the lines here, it looks to me as if this scheme has sat at the design stage for so many years (the preferred route was announced in 2007) that the scheme design is no longer appropriate to current policy, especially in terms of the proximity to housing and the design standard now favoured for roads of this type. In the past ten years Roads Service (oops, I mean TransportNI) has tended to move away from building distributor roads that run close to an urban area and have lots of junctions, and towards roads that are of a higher standard, run further from the urban area and have fewer junctions. We have seen this happen as the plans for the Magherafelt Bypass and the Cookstown Bypass have evolved, and the same thing may be happening here. Running the link along Ardmore Road, even though it was designed to eventually form part of the East Link, may no longer be considered appropriate due to there being several T-junctions along this stretch leading into housing estates. It's possible that a review of the design of the scheme was actually TransportNI's preference, and that the purpose of the public exhibition may therefore have been to seek support or confirmation for this line of reasoning.

16 Jul 2014: In my previous update I suggested that "Roads Service are keen to progress the scheme", and there has now been further evidence to support this. The DRD seems to have moved this scheme from the "forward planning schedule" to the "preparation pool" (although it now appears in both lists!). The former are schemes that are planned for the longer term, but aren't expected to be built soon, where as the latter are expected to proceed to construction within a few years. In practice, schemes can sit in the preparation pool for years and years, and even then require a funding allocation before they can be built, so it probably doesn't really tell us anything about timescales for this particular scheme. Coupled with the public consultation in June, which in practice seems to have been nothing more than a "raising awarenes" exercise, this makes me think that this scheme is now rolling once again and that we will see further planning milestones met over the next couple of years.

19 Jun 2014: The public information event on 11th June was a presentation of the preferred route. Although this preferred route was identified over two years ago, and is available on the DRD web site, the leaflet given out at the event said that a key objective of the exhibition was to "increase public awareness of the project". Although it is still on the Forward Planning Schedule (which normally means that construction is at least 5 years away), this suggests that Roads Service are keen to progress the scheme. However the leaflet, which is not yet available online, doesn't indicate any timescale. It does indicate that the draft legal orders are the next stage, as they are with any scheme. These are the Environmental Statement (which outlines the reasons for the scheme, its pros and cons and is usually the subject of a public inquiry), the Direction Order (giving DRD permission to create a new "trunk road") the Vesting Order (allowing DRD to compel land owners to sell the necessary land) and the Stopping Up Order (needed to give DRD the power to close current private accesses onto the new road, which is often done for safety reasons or if roads are being diverted). The only new information in the leaflet that I have not seen before is the design of the three junctions. So the junction with the A3 Portadown Road will be a roundabout, while th ejunctions with the A51 Hamilstonsbawn Road and the A28 Markethill Road will both be controlled by traffic lights. Also, it says that a short 300 metres stretch of Hamiltonsbawn Road will be realigned to remove a sharp bend on the approach to the new junction, presumably to provide better forward visability.

7 Jun 2014: According to Roads Service, a public consultation event into this scheme is going to be held on Wednesday 11 June 2014. It will take place in the Armagh City Hotel from 11.30am to 8.30pm. This scheme is still in the forward planning schedule, which usually means that it's not expected to proceed to construction in the near future. However, we do know that the "State 2 Assessment Report" for the scheme was aproved two years ago (see previous update). This it's Roads Service speak for "we've picked the preferred route", which you can see by clicking here. So it's not clear to me why there's a public consultation event now, two years after this, unless some further progress has been made. I commented in the previous update two years ago that this scheme appeared to be being pushed up the schedule for an unknown reason, and this still seems to be the case. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, new is presented at the event and whether it sheds any light on the scheme. The Roads Service web page on the scheme is still quoting the cost as £12-20m even though the Roads Service Board estimated the cost to be closer to £24m back in 2011 (see update for 6 Apr 2012 below).

22 April 2012: The DRD web site is now also saying that the Stage 2 Assessment Report was approved by the Roads Service board on 5 March 2012, although neither the minutes nor the report itself have been published online yet. This comes just four months after the Stage 1 Report was approved, even though nothing much had happened on this scheme for the prior six years. All the signs are that this scheme is being pushed up the schedule for an unknown reason - perhaps with Roads Service under pressure to spend the money reallocated from the A5 scheme, they are casting about for schemes that could go ahead at relatively short notice to spend the money. Perhaps they are anticipating that this scheme will not require a Public Inquiry.

6 April 2012: According to the Minutes of a Roads Service board meeting held in November 2011 (but just published), this scheme was given "Gateway 0 Approval" in mid November last year. The text is worth quoting in full: "noted, on 14 November 2011, the approval of the Stage 1 report for Armagh East Link and granted Gateway 0 approval noting the estimated cost of £24.6 million and that potentially the scheme could be delivered within the current Budget period". The Stage 1 report that is referred to is now available on the Roads Service web site here. However this document was written in August 2006, ie six years ago. This implies that the scheme has been sitting on hold for all of this time but has now finally been approved. "Gateway 0" approval means that the scheme has passed its "Strategic Assessment", ie it has been approved in principle, but that the detailed design work has yet to take place. The cost of £24.6m is over four times more than the figure of £6m given in the document "Expanding the Strategic Road Improvement Programme" published in November 2006, and three times the cost of £7.6m given in the Stage 1 Assessment Report. The reason for this huge cost escalation is not clear. In terms of timescale, Roads Service are officially saying that it is timed for construction within "5 to 10 years". In practice this is what they say about almost every scheme in the forward planning schedule. However the comment in the minutes that it "could be delivered within the current Budget period" is interesting, since the "current budget period" only takes us up to around 2015. We shall have to watch this space to see what this might mean.