A2 Sydenham Bypass - widening


Construction scheme (future)
Widen the existing A2 Sydenham Bypass from dual-2-lane to dual-3-lane in each direction and replace the existing Dee Street overbridge.
Total Length
4.2 km (2.6 miles)

23 Nov 1959 - Sydenham Bypass opens, the first dual-carriageway in N Ireland

2004 - Regional Transport plan proposes scheme.

Initial public consultation held - May 2008.

2nd public consultations on 24 Feb 2010 and 1 Mar 2010.

Stage 3 design to be complete Summer 2012 (as of Oct 2010).

Construction was to have been between 2014 and 2018 (as of Oct 2008).
Scheme "paused" - Aug 2023


44.3m for widening & replacement of Dee Street bridge (as of Sep 2009).

(changed from 28.7m)

New junction at Victoria Park to be developer-funded.

See Also

Official web site on Scheme - Roads Service

Existing A2 Sydenham Bypass - on this site

New grade separated junction on Sydenham Bypass - on this site

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

The A2 Sydenham Bypass is Northern Ireland's oldest dual-carriageway, having been completed in 1959. Having looked at the future of Belfast traffic the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan of 2004 recommended that it be widened to three lanes from its start at the M3 to its terminus at the A55 (Knocknagoney). The BMTP also recommended that the existing traffic light controlled T-junction at Dee Street be closed and replaced with a new grade-separated junction close to Victoria Park (see link above). This would provide access to the Harbour Estate and to the Holywood Arches area. This new junction will be provided by private developers (probably ahead of the widening scheme) as part of conditions for planning approval in these areas. The design is being progressed by ARUP.


The new road will consist of three lanes in each direction between the M3 and Knocknagoney. Countrybound, the onslip from Bridge End will become the third lane. At the Knocknagoney end, the the rightmost lane will become the turn-right lane for traffic wishing to turn onto the Outer Ring. Citybound the existing three lanes through the Knocknagoney junction will continue along the Sydenham Bypass instead of merging into two at present. Just before the M3 begins, the leftmost lane will become the offslip to Bridge End.

In order to fit the widened road into a smaller space, the new road will have no hard shoulders. The north side of the road will feature a 3.5 metre wide shared cycle and footway, while the south side will feature a 1.8 metre wide verge (ie not a full hard shoulder). This differs from the current arrangement where there is a cycleway on each carriageway. The diagram below (given out to the public at the public consultation in May 2008) shows the current and proposed arrangements:

Current and proposed road cross section

The widening will require 5 metres of land to be taken from Victoria Park and Belfast City Airport. The gated access directly from the Sydenham Bypass to the park will be sealed off, with maintenance vehicles required to use a new link from the layby at the original City Airport entrance instead. Dee Street bridge will be demolished and replaced by a new, wider structure at the same location. This may require closing Dee Street for several months - although recent experience on M2 has shown that it is possible to replace a bridge in two slices, thus keeping traffic moving. Dee Street itself will be realigned directly onto Airport Road, through the site of the current salt depot.

Other elements of the design include:

  • Provision of a shared cycle/foot way on the north side of the road.
  • Preservation (ie replacement) of the existing underpass into Victoria Park.
  • The East Belfast Yacht Club entrance (former Airport entrance) will be retained, but be limited to left-turn movements only.
  • Sydenham Footbridge will be replaced by a new structure.
  • The existing 1959 opening plaque will be incorporated somewhere in the upgraded road.


The best and most up-to-date map available is the one issued to the public in February 2010, available here. This shows the proposed layout of the new road and junctions along it.



View looking south west (towards the city centre) along the Sydenham Bypass from the former entrance to the City Airport in 2000. Since this was taken the crash barriers on the left (beside the railway) and in the centre have been upgraded. [Wesley Johnston]



18 Aug 2023: Well, it's now been seven years since the last update, as pretty much nothing has happened on this scheme now since 2010. DFI Roads this week released a document showing how the current roads programme will be prioritised in the current economic and legislative climate, where DFI is now required to de-carbonise transport. Unsurprisingly, the document states that work on the Sydenham Bypass is now "paused", an acknowledgement of what was already the case. So the next thing is to await the publication of the new Belfast transport plan (Eastern Transport Plan) expected sometime in the next couple of years. That is the plan that will decide whether the widening plan for the A2 remains a live plan or whether it will be abandoned. A lot has changed in terms of public opinion since the scheme was last publicised in the first decade of this century, so it's a fairly open question as to what will happen next.

14 Sep 2016: I was surprised to note that it has been almost six years since I had anything to report about this scheme, and this is basically because nothing has happened (unless you count the new parapet that was built on Dee Street bridge in 2013, which you probably shouldn't). The TransportNI web site now contains the brutally honest statement: "Due to current budget restrictions there is insufficient funding to allow development work to continue. Progression of the scheme is subject to future budget statements". So in other words this scheme is on hold, nothing is happening, and nothing is likely to happen for the foreseeable future. See you in another six years perhaps?

19 Oct 2010: Roads Service's web site is saying that the next stage of the design (what they call the "Stage 3 Process") will be completed in the summer of 2012, "subject to finance". If "Stage 3" refers to one of the six "gateways" that Roads Service follows for each scheme, then this would progress the design to the point where it could be put out to tender. It is extremely unlikely that funding will be available in 2012 to construct the scheme, which according to latest Roads Service information is still estimated to lie somewhere in the period 2014-18.

27 Mar 2010: Roads Service held their consultations at the end of February. They issued their leaflet on the preferred option, available here. The Stage 2 report, available on the Roads Service web site, shows that they also costed other options, including constructing the eastbound carriageway around the NORTH of Victoria Park, and one where eastbound traffic went on a circuitous route around the City Airport. Neither of these options was cost effective. The chosen option will see all the widening on the north side of the existing road. Dee Street bridge will be rebuilt, but the road realigned away from the Sydenham Road roundabout - apparently requiring the demolition of the road salt depot. The existing signalised junction at the entrance to the City Airport will, apparently remain. The leaflet also shows the proposed new grade separated junction at Connswater - this, however, is being taken forward independently, ahead of the widening, by a private developer. I have also received reassurances from Roads Service that the original 1959 opening plaque (currenty sited near the footbridge) will be preserved and reincorporated in some way into the upgraded road. Note that the Stage 2 report increased the cost estimate of the scheme from 29m to 44m.

22 Feb 2010: Roads Service are holding two more "public information events" this week and next. This will likely include an announcement of the "preferred option", ie some concrete proposals for exactly what is to happen to the Sydenham Bypass, and the junctions along it such as at Dee Street and the proposed new junction at Connsbank Road. The events will be held as follows:

As always, I would strongly encourage all those with an interest in the scheme to turn up as this is one of the main opportunities the public has to engage with the planners.

23 Jan 2010: According to their web site, Roads Service "approved the Stage 2 report" into this scheme on 21st December, although they offer no further explanation as to what this means or what the report contains. It could refer to the "design options" that were still being planned late last year following the public consultation in May. If so, then this report would contain a range of different options for increasing the capacity of the Sydenham Bypass and improving the junctions along it. This would likely result in a second public consultation and eventually a "preferred option". It will hopefully be published in due course.

2 Nov 2009: Over the past year work has gone on the background. In their report to Belfast City Council last week, Roads Service made a statement of progress. It doesn't give any details, but at least confirms that work is ongoing: "Preliminary work is continuing on a strategic road proposal to widen a 2.5km stretch of the A2 Sydenham Bypass. ... Following completion of the initial assessment and consultation processes, the scheme design is being taken forward through consideration of a number of design options. Roads Service is working closely with DOE Planning Service on the provision of a new junction to serve the Titanic Quarter." (The new junction referred to is discussed here.) Note that the Sydenham Bypass will be fifty years old on 23rd November. This is significant because it was the first modern dual-carriageway to be built in Northern Ireland.

24 Nov 2008: Roads Service released a leaflet about the scheme in November 2008. It does not contain anything new, but is a useful summary of the current position on the scheme. The leaflet estimates construction between 2014 and 2018.

16 May 2008: The public consultation was held over the past couple of days. Much of the description above as well as the maps are based on information gleaned at the inquiry. A PDF copy of the leaflet distributed at the event can be download from the Roads Service web site here.

24 Apr 2008: Roads Service kindly responded to my request for information on this scheme. The scheme is currently scheduled for construction between 2013 and 2018 (subject to permission and finance). Roads Service is trying hard to ensure that the scheme proceeds at the same time as the new grade separated junction at the Connswater bridge (see link above) to minimise disruption. The grade separated junction is being progressed by the private sector through a different planning process, so this is not a straightforward task. They also confirmed that there is currently NO plan to extend motorway restrictions from the current M3 further along the Sydenham Bypass, apparently due to the need to provide provision for cyclists and pedestrians. This seems a relatively weak reason, however, since a segregated cycle and footway would not only be safer, but would not prevent motorway restrictions from being applied to the road itself. An initial public consultation is due to take place in May 2008.