A31 Magherafelt Bypass


Construction scheme (completed)
BAM/McCann Consortium
Construction of a single-carriageway north-south bypass of Magherafelt
Total Length
5.9 km (3.7 miles)

1976 - Scheme proposed

2003 - Regional Transport Plan commits to proceed by 2015.

2005 - Included in the RSTN transport plan.

Aug 2006 - consultants appointed to progress scheme.

May 2008 - Statutory Notices published

Apr/May 2009 - Public inquiry held

13 Sep 2010 - Inspectors report published: decision made to proceed

1 Jul 2013 - Funding allocated for construction
25 Mar 2014 - Tenders advertised
18 Feb 2015 - Contractor appointed

24 Mar 2015 - Official "cutting of first sod" ceremony
18 Apr 2015 - Work began
6 Oct 2016 - Scheme opened to the public (one month ahead of schedule)


£35m-£45m as of Feb 2014
(revised from £36m as of Feb 2009; revised from £33m as of May 2008, revised from £13.1m in July 2006 , itself revised from £9.4m as of 2005)

There are currently no photos of this scheme.
See Also

General area map.

Summary Environmental Impact Statement - including detailed route map

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

The town of Magherafelt lies on the A31 route which connects the south west of the province (Tyrone, Fermanagh) to the north east (Coleraine, Ballymena etc). It is thus used quite heavily, with 17,500 vehicles per day in 2009. Traffic currently passes through the town centre as there is no realistic alternative route. This scheme will see a single-carriageway bypass constructed around the eastern edge of the town connecting Moneymore Road and Castledawson Road. The old road through Magherafelt became B40 when the road opened.

The cost of £9.4m publicised in 2005 had increased to £13m by the time this public consultation was released in July 2006, and had risen considerably to £33m by May 2008 and £35-45m by Feb 2014. These costs are partly due to construction inflation but mainly due to the increasingly ambitious nature of the design which saw the road taken further and further out from the urban area and hence become longer and longer.


This map, released to the public in January 2008, shows the route of the proposed road running from the existing Castledawson roundabout in the north round the east side of the town. A more detailed map can be found on pages 6-7 of the Summary Environmental Impact Statement.

The new road will have four roundabouts with three stretches of road between them. The road would have no other junctions between the roundabouts. The first roundabout is the existing Castledawson Roundabout on the A6. The road then continues to a roundabout on Aughrim Road, then a roundabout on Ballyronan Road and finally terminates at a new roundabout on the existing A31 Moneymore Road south of the town at Coolshinny Road. Bridges will carry the road over Killyfaddy Road and Loves Road, while Killyneese Road will pass under the Bypass via a limited-headroom underpass (ie no lorries). This route passes through some very boggy land, which has likely added considerably to the cost as the foundations will have be dug quite deep. The design will feature one or more stretches of 2+1 carriageway (two lanes in one direction, one in the other).

Earlier Route Options

This map (a screenshot from Google Earth) shows the approximate routes as proposed in an EARLIER a leaflet released to the public in October 2007. It shows the so-called blue (innermost) route, the purple (middle) route and the pink (outer) route. The 2005 Transport Plan proposed the blue route, which is identical to a plan first published in 1976, with the other two options being added during 2007. This screenshot from Google Earth shows the proposed routes (note again that this is approximate):


6 Oct 2016: The A31 Magherafelt Bypass was officially opened today in a ceremony involving the Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard (see picture below). One thing that delighted me is that the official opening really was the actual opening - in recent years the "official" opening has often occurred days or even weeks after the road was actually opened to the public. Having a genuine opening ceremony was delightfully reminiscent of the feeling of forward-looking adventure that road construction had in the 1960s. The road is predicted to take about a third of the vehicles out of the town centre, about 7000 vehicles per day, and probably an even higher percentage of heavy goods vehicles. The difference should be immediately noticeable to residents of Magherafelt. The Minister commented that road had been opened "ahead of schedule" and this is no exaggeration. When the contractor was appointed in Feburary 2015 the opening was estimated to be in December 2016, so by that measure the scheme is about two months ahead of that schedule and apparently about four weeks ahead of the more detailed schedule that was worked out after work began. Congratulations to the contractor BAM/McCann for a great piece of work. The opening of the road means that the old A31 through Magherafelt has now become the B40, already dramatically changing how maps of the area appear. Finally, the Minister gave some stats about the scheme: "Since the scheme began in June 2015 (sic) over 500,000 cubic metres of earthworks material has been excavated, including over 25,000 cubic metres of rock. 46,000 tonnes of bituminous material was laid...". The opening got widespread coverage in the media, for example here, here and here.

Official opening of the A31 Magherafelt on the morning of 6 October, 2016. From left: Conor Loughery, Transport NI Western Divisional Manager; Francie Molloy, MP for Mid Ulster; Chris Hazzard, Infrastructure Minister; Trevor Wilson, Chair of Mid Ulster Council - and all photobombed by two FP McCann trucks! [TransportNI pic from here]

2 Oct 2016: We now probably only a week or two away from the scheme opening to the public. I have been lamenting the lack of a good overview of the scheme at this late point, but the cavalry has arrived in the form of drone footage posted on YouTube taken about two weeks ago (along with some epic music) showing progress along much of the northern half of the scheme. It begins at Ballyronan Road, but then jumps to the northern terminus at Castledawson Roundabout and travelling south to Aughrim Road roundabout. With thanks to Damien McAleer for letting me know about this video. (The links beside this video on YouTube have also revealed some other drone footage that I wasn't aware of, including this lovely movie taken during the summer.)

11 Sep 2016: We are really reaching a very exciting period in this scheme, as it appears to be getting very close to completion. Already the road appears completed and has road markings in place along significant lengths, and the outstanding work seems to be very much focused on the finishing touches, things like street lighting, signage, white lining and last bits of tarmac. The first picture below (if it works) is a link to a Tweet showing new signage on Castledawson roundabout that reveals that the old A31 through Magherafelt is to become the B40. I am rather surprised by this, as standard practice in the past decade or so has been to re-number bypassed A-roads with another A-number. Hence the old A37 through Limavady became the A371 and the old A21 through Comber became the A211. On this basis I had expected the old A31 to become A311, but it seems it is to become the B40 instead. This isn't really of much more than academic interest, as the road doesn't change - just the number - but it is still worth commenting on on a roads web site I think as it marks a break with the past. It has to be said that it is not totally without precedent to do it this way - eg Ballymoney also lost all its A-roads when it was  bypassed. The remainder of the pictures below were taken three days ago by Chris Carter (thank you) and they show the state of the road at Aughrim Road roundabout, which is about a third of the way round the bypass from the north. I can certainly see the road opening to the public during October as previously scheduled. Well done to the contractor for staying on schedule.

Pic 1: View south along the A31 Magherafelt Bypass from Aughrim Road roundabout, 8 Sep 2016. Were it not for the absence of vehicles, and the missing edge-of-carroageway white line, it would be difficult to tell that this road was not open to the public. Note the street lights - it seems that this rural roundabout will be lit, presumably for safety reasons. [Chris Carter]

Pic 2: Turning round 180° from the previous image, this is Aughrim Road roundabout on 8 Sep 2016, with Magherafelt to the left. The roundabout is open to the public, with just the two Bypass arms closed off by barriers. The black plastic is covering a sign that will direct traffic along the bypass which will shortly steal the A31 number off the old road through the town. [Chris Carter]

Pic 3: Walking to the far side of the Aughrim Road roundabout, this is the view north, towards Castledawson, on 8 Sep 2016. Work here still seems to involve final tarmac laying. The signage indicates that this stretch will have a short 'differential acceleration lane' leaving the roundabout. These are designed to allow faster vehicles an opportunity to overtake slower moving vehicles. [Chris Carter]

Pic 4: Finally, this is the view east (away from Magherafelt) along the Aughrim Road from the new roundabout on 8 Sep 2016. The tan coloured road is a high friction surface coating, designed to reduce the chances of skidding by braking vehicles. They are normally placed on the approaches to roundabouts to reduce the chances of rear-end-shunt type crashes. [Chris Carter]

30 Aug 2016: The project is now in its final stages, and the road is looking close to completion in a number of locations. The scheduled completion date is currently sometime in October, and I haven't seen anything to suggest any issues with this. Below I share a few pictures that were taken at Ballyronan Road, one of the three new roundabouts being built as part of the scheme. These were taken at the weekend by a contributor who prefers to remain anonymous (thank you) and show the road in advanced state at this location. Ballyronan Road roundabout is completed and in use by traffic on Ballyronan Road, but the bypass itself is still unopen. The bypass at this spot looks to only need its final wearing course of tarmac, lane markings and signage to prepare it for opening. [Transposed captions below fixed 31 Aug 2016, apologies]

Pic 1: View south west across Ballyronan Road roundabout on 27 Aug 2016, with the unopened bypass both straight ahead and directly behind the camera. Ballyronan Road, which runs left-right here, is open as normal and the roundabout seen here is in use. [Anonymous contributor]

Pic 2: Walking forwards from the previous location to the far side of the roundabout, this is the view south west along the unopened Magherafelt Bypass (towards Moneymore) on 27 Aug 2016. Note the street lighting on the left, and the posts for road signs. [Anonymous contributor]

Pic 3: This is the view north east along the unopened Magherafelt Bypass (towards Castledawson) from Ballyronan Road roundabout on 27 Aug 2016.The road ahead still needs its final wearing course of tarmac and some signage, but otherwise looks pretty completed. Again, note the street lighting for the first few hundred yards. [Anonymous contributor]

4 Jun 2016: A larger update tonight to bring you a number of pictures that were taken by Martin Young on 30 May (thank you!). These were taken from public roads at three specific locations - Castledawson Roundabout at the very north end of the scheme, Ballyronan Road about two thirds of the way along the scheme, and Moneymore Road, at the very south end of the scheme. The 19 month scheme now has only 5 months remaining, so we are entering the final quarter where we should see things start to take their final form over the coming weeks. Indeed some areas, such as the very north end, are looking very close to completion with tarmac laid in several places. Completion is currently scheduled for October 2016. The pics below are arranged from north to south.

Pic 1: Looking due south from Castledawson Roundabout on 30 May 2016, with the new bypass really starting to look like a proper road with kerbing and tarmac in place and the triangular traffic island even taking shape on the left. Just ahead is one of the three major cuttings on the scheme, and the green colour shows that nature has already begun reclaiming the banks, perhaps assisted by some seeding. In the distance is a farm accommodation overbridge, shown in pic 2. The road will probably feature an overtaking lane for vehicles heading south, up this hill. [Martin Young]

Pic 2: Zoomed in shot of the farm accommodation overbridge that spans the middle of the cutting shown in Pic 1, on 30 May 2016. The bridge has its beams in place, and it looks as if it is currently getting its deck and/or parapets added. The drops at the left and right show that the approach embankments to carry the laneway are not yet in place. The white lines on either side of the main road mark the location of the drainage channels.  [Martin Young]

Pic 3: Moving now to Ballyronan Road, about two thirds of the way along the scheme, this is the view north-east along the future bypass on 30 May 2016. It will meeat Ballyronan Road at a roundabout, which is not yet completed but will be sited where the photographer is standing. [Martin Young]

Pic 4: Same location as pic 3, but turning 90° to the right, this is the view along Ballyronan Road out of Magherafelt on 30 May 2016. A roundabout is to be built where the photographer is standing and it looks as if some preparation works are already underway. The bypass will run to the left and right of the photographer. [Martin Young]

Pic 5: Same location as pic 4 but turning another 90° to the right, this is the view south-west along the future bypass on 30 May 2016. Ahead is the second of the three major cuttings on the scheme, which has now been excavated. When I visited the site in February work had yet to begin on this cutting, so that's a lot of earth moved in four months. [Martin Young]

Pic 6: Moving now to the southern end of the scheme at Moneymore Road, this is the view east along the future bypass on 30 May 2016. Ahead the bypass approaches the photographer through the third of the three major cuttings on the scheme. It will terminate at a new roundabout situated directly in front of the photographer. The curved kerb in the foreground is part of the central island. [Martin Young]

Pic 7: Moving about 100 metres to the left of the previous shot, ie towards Magherafelt, and turning round, this is a view of the future line of Moneymore Road on 30 May 2016. Moneymore Road, in the foreground, will be realigned along this new route so that it meets the new roundabout at the appropriate angle. The new roundabout will be situated where the wire fences are on the left. [Martin Young]

Pic 8: Same view as Pic 7, but walking about 100m back towards the future Moneymore Road roundabout, this is half of the roundabout in place on 30 May 2016 with all traffic currently driving through the central island.  [Martin Young]

Pic 9: Finally, from the same location as Pic 8, but turning about 45° to the left, this is the other side of the future roundabout also in place on 30 May 2016, and apparently actively under construction.  [Martin Young]

5 Apr 2016: Another small update to bring you a shot of the Aughrim Road roundabout, one of three new ground level roundabouts that will be provided on the new bypass. The roundabout has now been completed, although traffic on Aughrim Road is just being diverted around it for now since the bypass is not yet open. The picture below was taken yesterday and is the view looking east, ie away from Magherafelt. This is the same view before work began. The photographer prefers to remain anonymous, but thank you.

View east along Aughrim Road, near Magherafelt towards the roundabout that the Magherafelt Bypass will eventually use to cross from left to right here. 4 April 2016. [Anonymous contributor]

2 Apr 2016: A small update this time to bring you a shot of the Loves Road bridge which was completed a couple of weeks ago and is now open to traffic below. This bridge will carry the new Magherafelt Bypass over Loves Road. The bypass is still being built so for now the bridge has a temporary parapet to protect workers. You can see how it looked two months ago in pic 4 of the 10 Feb 2016 update when it was still under construction. The location is roughly here. With thanks to Shay Sweetnam for sending me this pic to share with everyone.

View east along Loves Road on 13 March 2016, showing Loves Road now open and using the new bridge that will eventually carry the A31 Magherafelt Bypass over it. The bridge abutments are made from pre-cast concrete panels that are held in place by strips which extend into the fill behind them, using friction to remain in place. The crash barrier is presuambly there to stop an errant vehicle from damaging the panels in a collision. [Shay Sweetnam]

10 Feb 2016: Last Tuesday (2 Feb) I enjoyed a tour of the A31 Magherafelt Bypass courtesy of the contractor (BAM/McCann consortium). A big thank you to Mark McCann of FP McCann for facilitating the visit, and to Derek Graham of the DRD for setting it up. I saw a lot of fascinating engineering works up close and took quite a few photos, 13 of which I share below. They are arranged in order from north (Castledawson end) to south (Moneymore end). It is a rare treat to get photos of the scheme taken on the site itself, rather than nearby vantage points. All in all progress seems to be on schedule with work progressing well on all parts of the scheme. Congratulations to the contractor for the work done to date. The scheme is scheduled to be open to traffic around October this year, so in time terms it is about 50% completed.

Pic 1: The view north along the future Magherafelt Bypass from about half way between the Castledawson Roundabout and Killyneese Road on 2 Feb 2016. The picture is taken from above what will be an accommodation underpass which will give landowners access to land on either side of the new road without having direct access onto it. Ahead is one of the largest cuttings on the scheme. Eventually it will have an accommodation overbridge across it running from left to right. Work on the foundations for this appears to have started. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 2: View through the accommodation underpass mentioned in picture 1 on 2 Feb 2016. This will be used by a local farmer to access land on either side of the road, while the new Bypass will run left-right above it. The underpass itself is made from pre-cast sections on the left and right with a U-shaped section set on top. The abutments are faced with pre-cast concrete panels that are held in place by strips which extend into the fill behind them, using friction to remain in place. Some of these strips can be seen on the right temporarily hanging over the abutment. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 3: The view south-east along Killyneese Road on 2 Feb 2016. This road was originally to have been stopped-up completely by the construction of the bypass, but after the Public Inquiry it was decided that a limited-headroom underpass could be provided. The underpass had just been completed and was open to traffic when I visited. It has been built in the same manner as the one shown in picture 2 above. The restriction to one lane is for three reasons (1) to accommodate a footpath (2) because two lanes would have meant a more expensive structure and (3) to act as a traffic-calming measure as this short stretch is now of a higher standard than adjacent section of Kilyneese Road. Turning bays have been provided at either side in case a HGV ends up stuck here! [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 4: This is the view west along Loves Road on 2 Feb 2016, which will be a full-size bridge constructed from concrete beams. Loves Road is currently closed while the bridge is built. I wasn’t able to get up close as high-pressure water jets were being used to cut the concrete, so we had to keep well back. Even from this distance you could feel drops of water in the air. The Bypass will run left-right across here on an embankment. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 5: The view south along the line of the future Bypass towards Ballyronan Road on 2 Feb 2016. This will be the site of one of the two intermediate roundabouts on the scheme. Work has just begun to form the foundations for this roundabout, but for now the existing road is running as normal left-right. The short length of hedge visible in the middle of the frame is sited where the middle of the roundabout island will be. Straight ahead the bare soil marks what will be the second largest cutting on the scheme - this hill has to be excavated right down to the level of Ballyronan Road. In many cases the material dug from cuttings is being re-used on embankments elsewhere on the scheme, but more fill is needed than can be found in this way. So the contractor has entered arrangements with other nearby landowners to obtain fill from land that, for example, currently slopes steeply in a way that is not conducive to farming. The excavations will then leave land that will be flatter and hence better for agriculture, in a kind of win-win arrangement. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 6: Near Killyfaddy Road a local river ran along the line of the Bypass for a couple of hundred metres and had to be shifted wholesale to the south. This is the new watercourse complete and in use on 2 Feb 2016. Great care has gone into making it as natural as possible - with boulders along the banks, as well as a small, deep channel for normal flow (as shown here) but with a wide, shallow channel for dealing with floods in a way that mimics natural watercourses. The banks here will be seeded but otherwise nature will be left to take its course. The new Bypass will run on the right parallel to the river shown, with the river crossing beneath it twice via bridges. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 7: Taken from the same location as the previous shot, but turning 90° to the right, this is the river flowing under the bridge that will carry it under the future Bypass on 2 Feb 2016. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 8: Taken from the same location as the previous shot, but turning a further 90° to the right, this is an accommodation underpass that sits close to the river bridge. It will give local landowners access to land on either side of the new road, which will pass over it on an embankment. Seen on 2 Feb 2016. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 9: The view south along Killyfaddy Road on 2 Feb 2016 towards the large underpass that is currently being constructed to take the road beneath the future Bypass. This is about 300m west of the river shown previously This underpass is being built as a larger version of the accommodation underpasses already shown, namely with vertical sections on the left and right and then a pre-cast U-shaped concrete roof. Killyfaddy Road is obviously closed to traffic while this is built. The Bypass will run on a long (1km) embankment across this part of the landscape. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 10: A “mammal underpass” beneath the future Bypass, seen on 2 Feb 2016. These are being built at various points along embankments, presumably in an effort to reduce the roadkill toll of badgers, foxes etc. The person on the left gives the scale - the truck above is (to quote Father Ted) “far away” rather than “small”! [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 11: This shot is taken about 800m from the end of the scheme at the Moneymore Road end, 2 Feb 2016. This is the view east, away from Moneymore Road, along the line of the future Bypass as it runs on the long, 1km embankment that is being formed here. Beneath the photographer is a small watercourse passing beneath another bridge. The number of structures on the new road is quite striking, especially since many of them will be invisible to road users and yet still require a lot of work. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 12: Taken from about 300m from the end of the scheme at the Moneymore Road end, this is the view west on 2 Feb 2016 where the scheme has a ‘last hurrah’ in the form of one more large cutting, seen here in a very advanced stage with the hardcore foundations of the road itself now laid. At this location, the next material that will go down will the tarmac itself. The white plastic on the left and right marks drainage channels that run down either side of the road. The cutting squeezes neatly between existing developments, including the house visible at the upper left. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 13: Finally, this is the view looking east across Moneymore Road on 2 Feb 2016 towards the line of the future Bypass. The cutting visible on the right is the same one seen in picture 12, but viewed from the other side. Workers have just begun work on the new roundabout which will eventually mark the terminus of the scheme here. The road in the foreground is Coolshinney Road, currently closed for the works. [Wesley Johnston]

20 Dec 2015: We are eight months into the project and there is now less than a year left to estimated completion - the new DRD Minister has paid a visit to the scheme. The associated press release gives the following useful summary of work so far: "To date, around 75% of the earth works have been completed which required almost 500,000 tonnes of material to be moved. The installation of the drainage culverts are also almost completed and half of the permanent fencing has been erected. The construction of the farm underpasses and overbridges along the route are also progressing well." The comment about overbridges "progressing well" is certainly true, as demonstrated by the associated picture showing the Minister beneath what looks like an unidentified but impressively advanced overbridge with beams in place (see below). Finally, although I have been working on the assumption that the scheme would be completed by December 2016 (based on the 20 month estimate given at project commencement in April), the press release says that completion is now expected in October 2016 - so no pressure, BAM/McCann!

DRD Minister Michelle McIlveen (left) with William Diver from the contractor BAM/McCann, at an unidentified overbridge on the A31 Magherafelt Bypass, 15 Dec 2015 [DRD image].

15 Nov 2015: This update is to bring you the latest aerial video of the scheme taken on 29 October by Kilkeel firm Aquila. It is embedded below (with thanks to Aquila for the code) but in case that doesn't work the link is given below the video.

Magherafelt Bypass Progress Flyover 29-10-15 from Aquila on Vimeo.

We can see that a lot of progress has been made during October. Starting at the south end at Moneymore Road, earthworks at 00:17 are not only completed but road construction is underway with stone foundations now in place on the first 600 metres. Aquila's notes explain that this is both "site won" stone (meaning that it's come from excavations elsewhere on the scheme) and "imported" stone (which comes from further afield, normally a quarry). The culvert that was being built at 00:37 now appears to be completed. Completed excavations continue to Killyfaddy Road at 00:45 which will eventually cross the bypass on a bridge. Work on the major works required to divert a river are still well underway at 00:50, including two culverts either completed or nearly so, and a new river bed. From here to Ballyronan Road at 01:08 earthworks are clearly underway at various stages, and at least one more culvert. It's hard to tell, but it looks as if some of the foundations for the Ballyronan Road roundabout may be in place. The next stretch is still at the earthworks stage, and we come to Loves Road at 01:34. Here the approach embankments for the flyover that will carry the bypass over Loves Road are very evident and it looks as if preparatory works for the bridge abutments are now underway. From here to Aughrim Road, 01:57, not much has changed in the past month, though the earthworks along here seem completed. Foundations for Aughrim Road roundabout now seem to be underway. After this, the earthworks again appear very advanced with foundations possibly going down. Work on the one remaining major culvert at 02:13 has still not commenced - it's not clear why this one has not commenced yet. Perhaps there is some special consideration here, for example ecological, that limits when work can take place. The video reaches Killyneese Road at 02:19, which will pass under the new road via a limited-headroom underpass. The approach embankments here aren't yet completed, though the presence of several earth-moving trucks here suggets this is actively underway. Along the final stretch earthworks appear very advanced, and at 02:34 we can see that there will be an accommodation overbridge (used to provide access to private land severed by the road) over the substantial cutting here. On the last 200 metres before Castledawson Roundabout the stone foundations of the road are in place, with drainage structures evident on both sides. At the end of the scheme, at 02:42, we can see that work on the tie-in to the existing Castledawson Roundabout is now underway, so people passing on the A6 can now see the works at close hand. It's possible that the contractor intends to open up an access onto the roundabout to provide a route in and out for works vehicles in the coming months. At 03:00 we can see the huge field that has been used to store spoil, which now looks to be being taken away again. The remainder of the video is a return flythrough along the scheme in the opposite direction, but with less annotation.

29 Oct 2015: Work has now been underway on this scheme for 6 months, and with 14 months still to go we are almost a third of the way through the project. Another aerial video has been released by Kilkeel firm Aquila, this one taken about a month ago on 29 September. So, bearing in mind that a month has passed since this video was made, we can see good progress on all parts of the scheme. The video starts at the south end (Moneymore Road) showing topsoil stripping now complete and earthworks underway. You can see a culvert taking shape at 00:32 before the video reaches Killyfaddy Road at 00:44. The bypass will cross this road on a bridge with no local access, though work doesn't appear to have started yet on the bridge itself. After this you can see two substantial culverts taking shape at 00:45 and 00:58, which are both for a local stream that has to be diverted as it currently runs along the route of the road. From here to Ballyronan Road the work seems limited to topsoil stripping, and not much more has happened at the site of the future roundabout at Ballyronan Road at 01:13. From there to Loves Road, at 01:37, some earthworks have taken place and some culverts are under construction. The new road will cross Loves Road on a bridge, though again this does not appear to have commenced as yet. From here to Aughrim Road roundabout, at 01:47, we can see a completed embankment and cutting in quick succession. After this is another embankment, leading to the missing bridge/culvert at 02:04, on which no work has begun for an unknown reason, and continuing to Killyneese Road at 02:16, which will pass under the new road via a limited-headroom underpass. Continuing north, the earthworks along here are very advanced, including what looks like a major embankment being built over a culvert at 02:34. At 02:51 the video focuses on the field that seems to have been used to store spoil for the past few months - it looks as if material is now being removed from here again, probably to construct earthworks at various locations on the scheme. At 03:00 we see a major cutting that looks to be fully or nearly fully excavated, before the scheme finally terminates at Castledawson roundabout. Thus far the focus has been on earthworks (embankments and cuttings) and on culverting watercourses. In the coming months I would expect to see the scheme advancing with work commencing on bridge structures and on drainage infrastructure along the road itself. The coming winter will see inclement weather and shorter periods of daylight, so the contractor will be keen to get as much as possible done before the worst of the winter hits.

4 Sep 2015: Another aerial video has been released, this one taken on 27 August by Kilkeel firm Aquila. It is computer-generated but composed of actual aerial photography taken from a drone. The comments below the video say that so far 150,000 tonnes of material have been excavated since work began in April. The video starts about 1.5km from the southern end of the scheme and goes all the way north to Castledawson roundabout. It shows that at the south end of the scheme works are at the stage of stripping topsoil. The video reaches Ballyronan Road at 0:30, and shows that gravel has been added here to form the foundations of the future roundabout here. North of Ballyronan Road a long cutting seems to be complete, and the gravel road base is being laid. At 0:51 you can see a culvert under construction, and you can just about make out the thin blue pipes that are presumably carrying the water from the watercouse that it will eventually carry. At 1:09 the video passes Loves Road, which the bypass will cross via a bridge. More gravel is evident here, and just to the north another culvert is seen under construction at 01:12. In this vicinity the works seem to be largely at the topsoil removal stage. Further north, beginning at 1:20 we come to the most advanced part of the scheme, where there is a long series of cuttings and embankments with gravel foundations apparently in place for almost 1km. At 01:32 we cross the site of the future Aughrim Road roundabout, which also has some of its gravel foundations in place. At 02:00 we see a temporary bridge over a river, presumably to allow construction vehicles to cross over. At 02:10 the video reaches Killyneese Road which the new road will cross via a limited-headroom bridge. This also seems to be the location where many of the site vehicles are being stored. From here to the Castledawson Roundabout is another series of completed cuttings and embankments, and more evidence of gravel foundations. At 02:33 we see an enormous area of bare soil which looks to be part of the cutting. It's hard to tell from the video, but it may also be functioning as a temporary storage area for material excavated from elsewhere. We reach Castledawson roundabout at 02:42 where topsoil stripping has taken place, but to date no attempt has been made to modify the roundabout itself. With thanks to Seamus Graffin for letting me know about this video.

13 Aug 2015: Work has now been underway on this project for four months, so in time terms it's about 20% completed. So far I have not been able to get any pictures of the works underway. However, we are more than compensated by the appearance last week of a YouTube video taken by a drone showing the bulk of the site from the air! The video is embedded below, but in case this doesn't work here is the link. The video tells us that initital topsoil stripping has taken place along at least half of the route, but that serious earthworks seem to be focused at the north end of the scheme between the Castledawsn Roundabout and the future Aughrim Road roundabout. Along this stretch, shown in the first part of the video, a series of cuttings appear to have been excavated, one of which is very substantial, along with what looks like some embankments (possibly using some of the same material). The land around Magherafelt undulates with many small hills, so the bypass is essentially a continuous series of embankments and cuttings. Although the site crosses several roads, these are currently unaffected so the scale of the work carried out during the summer is not much is evident. For those interested, this is a link to another computer-generated video taken in June 2015 and which shows the works as they were then, overlaid with the line of the new road in white. I also saw this tweet about a temporary bridge. I do not know where this might be, but it could be the bridge over a small watercourse evident at 2:17 in the video. If so, the bridge would be to allow construction vehicles to access parts of the site bounded by watercourses ahead of bridge construction. Congratulations to the contractor, as well as the folks who stuck these videos up!

3 May 2015: According to the DRD, work began on the scheme properly on 18 April, although the official ceremony occurred three weeks beforehand (see previous update). With the scheme due to last 20 months, a starting date of 18 April would see the scheme completed in late December 2016. As I said before, I will bring you what news I can over the next two years - if anyone takes photos of the scheme as it progresses, I'd love to hear from you.

25 Mar 2015: All systems are go for construction of the Magherafelt Bypass! Although some preliminary site works have been underway for a few weeks, yesterday saw the official "cutting of the first sod" ceremony by the DRD Minister Danny Kennedy. The DRD press release confirms that the scheme will last 20 months, so we could expect completion around November 2016. The scheme is estimated to trigger a reduction of traffic in the town centre in the order of 30%, and that the bypass will attract 14,000 vehicles per day. The press release also says that once the bypass has been opened and after things have been allowed to settle they will then look at traffic arrangements in the town to see if any opportunities exist to improve the use of road space. The cost of the scheme is given as £35m, but this may be only the construction cost, rather than the total project cost which would include things like design costs and land acquisition. As the road is entirely off-line (except for the locations where it crosses other roads and at its two termini) there should be little disruption to road users - indeed, it will be quite hard to view progress on this scheme as so much of it passes through open countryside away from public vantage points. However I will bring you what news I can over the next two years - if anyone takes photos of the scheme as it progresses, I'd love to hear from you. The people of Mid Ulster will be delighted that this scheme is now underway after 38 years in planning.

The DRD Minister Danny Kennedy (with shovel) and local MLA Sandra Overend with two representatives of the contractor BAM/McCann Consortium on 24 March 2015 [Image ©Sandra Overend, used with permission]

28 Feb 2015: The contract for construction of the Magherafelt Bypass was awarded to the BAM/McCann consortium on 18 February 2015. Congratulations to them. This is the same contractor who is also about to begin work on the dualling of the A26 from Glarryford to Drones Road, so these two schemes will be proceeding simultaneously and by the same contractor. they are not hugely far apart, so they may even be able to share some resources between the two sites. According to the DRD press release work is due to begin "before the end of the financial year", ie 1 April, so we could expect work to get underway within the next four weeks. Disruption to road users should be minimal as the scheme is entirely off-line except for the locations where it crosses other roads and at its two termini. The cost given in the press release is £35m; however this may be just the construction cost rather than the overall project cost which would also include things like design work and land acquisition. The scheme is due to last 20 months, so assuming a start on or around 1 April, this would see the road completed shortly before Christmas 2016. As work is going to start very soon I have moved this scheme to "under construction".

28 Jan 2015: With the contractor due to be appointed within the next couple of weeks, what appears to be an advanced site-clearance contract has commenced on site. According to the image in this news report in the Mid Ulster Mail, it involves topsoil clearance and probably also archaeological investigations. The report cites a DRD source as confirming that the contractor is due to be appointed in "early February". The winning contractor will likely want to begin work as soon as possible after this.

18 Dec 2014: According to a question answered in the Assembly by the DRD Minister last week, things seem to be progressing smoothly towards commencement of this scheme. He confirmed that tenders closed on 24 November (as per the previous update below) and that the contractor should be appointed soon. Assuming no disputes, work should get underway in February with completion due in October 2016, ie a total construction period of 20 months. He also said that service diversions are underway (ie moving water pipes, electrical & telephone cables etc) and that "the archaeological investigation and vegetation clearance will begin shortly". We know that some archaeological trial pits were dug around the summertime, so this is presumably further work. Vegetation clearance work is a necessary first step, and the winter is a good time to do it as it avoids the complications of the bird nesting season.

31 Oct 2014: The tender process has been underway now since April, and the deadline for submission for tenders is 24 November 2014. The DRD Minister answered a question about progress on this scheme in the Assembly on 31 October. He noted that archaeological surveys including some trial pits have been carried out, temporary fencing around the vested land (land bought by the DRD to build the scheme) has been erected. He anticipates that work will begin "early next year", which is no different than was the case a few months ago, so that is reassuring.

4 Apr 2014: The "tender" for this project has now appeared on the DRD's web site. Since the last update it has been clarified that this first phase of the process is to create a shortlist of construction firms that will be invited to submit tenders in the second phase. The two phases will happen 'behind the scenes' so the next thing we're likely to hear is the tender being awarded, around December 2014 or January 2015. The two-phase approach is a way of weeding out companies that have little or no chance of winning the tender before they put in proper tenders and thus saves both the DRD and contractors time. The value of the construction tender is given as £25m (as opposed to the overall project cost, which also includes things like planning and land purchase, and is currently estimated to be about £35m-45m). The minutes of a Transport NI [the body that oversees Roads Service] board meeting on 26 February suggest that a review was recently carried out to make sure that this scheme's "appropriate assessment screening" was adequate. This is a long-winded way of saying that they re-checked planning work that was done on this project's environmental impact to make sure that this project cannot be challenged in court in the same way as the A5 project was last year. This may account for the longer-than-expected delay between funding being announced for this project in July 2013 and the tender being released last week.

25 Mar 2014: According to a DRD press release, the tender for construction of the A31 Magherafelt Bypass has been released, although at the time of writing this update this was not reflected on the DRD's own web site. The Vesting Order has also come into effect - this is the legal document that allows DRD to purchase the required land. The tender process is expected to take 8 or 9 months, so we should expect to see construction get underway in either December 2014 or January 2015. The press release estimates that work will last about 20 months, so the road should be completed around August or September 2016.

1 Mar 2014: I have had a useful chat with a DRD representative about this scheme and they have confirmed that the construction tender is very likely to be released this month, as planned, which would see the contract awarded in either December 2014 or January 2015, with construction likely to begin almost immediately. There should be relatively little disruption during the works as most of the engineering works are taking place offline. The only impacts on the existing road network will be places where the new bypass joins or crosses over an existing road.

30 Jan 2014: More bad news for supporters of this scheme. The release of the tender for construction has been delayed again - this time, until March 2014. It originally had an estimated release date of October 2013 which got pushed back to January (see previous update) and now March. That means that it will have taken at least 8 months to go from funding allocation to tender release, which is unusually long. It suggests that there may be some kind of issue behind the scenes that is holding everything up.

11 Dec 2013: There seems to have been a bit of a delay getting this scheme out to tender. Although in August the estimated tender release date was October 2013, this was pushed back to November, then December and is now estimated to be released in January 2014. It's not clear why this is. However, since the whole tendering process ("procurement") normally takes about 9 months, it shouldn't too badly affect the estimated start date of September 2014 which was announced in July, as this is still 8 months after January.

21 Aug 2013: With this scheme now having been approved, it has now appeared as an advance notice on Roads Service's "future contracts" list, with an estimated release date of October 2013. This is bang on schedule if construction is to get underway around September 2014 as announced in July. These are exciting times for Magherafelt.

1 July 2013: Today the Finance Minister announced in Stormont the allocations of funding for the 2014/15 financial year, ie the period starting in April next year. He said "[Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy] set out a number of road schemes that, he suggested, could be advanced in the next financial year to make use of any additional capital funding [freed up by the delay in the A5 scheme due to legal action]. Given that all significant capital projects have a considerable lead-in time, the Executive agreed that it would be helpful to consider, as early as possible and in a strategic manner, projects that may be advanced in 2014-15.  Pending further consideration of all options and to ensure that valuable time is not lost, the Executive have agreed that the Regional Development Minister can proceed with the Magherafelt bypass project". While it's slightly surprising that the Magherafelt Bypass managed to squeeze in ahead of the A6 dualling scheme (Randalstown to Castledawson), the Magherafelt Bypass is badly needed and this will be very welcome. In his own press release, the DRD Minister suggests that work could begin in 14 months' time, in September 2014, which is in keeping with the length of time that the procurement process would take. (Note that this press release erroneously states that the Bypass is 3km long, when it is in fact almost 6km in length.) There are still some minor processes to complete, namely "the business case and some environmental work", but we could expect a procurement process to be underway before the end of 2013 which will hopefully see a contractor appointed ready for work to begin next autumn. Great news for Mid Ulster and anyone who tries to negotiate the A31 through Magherafelt.

27 May 2013: It's been two-and-a-half years since the last update on this scheme, but it was the subject of an oral question to the "Roads" Minister in Stormont last week. As I predicted over on my blog back in April, this scheme does indeed seem to be one of those that *may* benefit from the delay in the A5 scheme. The 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." What he is saying is that all of these schemes have the possibility of going ahead sooner rather than later, depending on what the Executive agrees. Specifically on the Magherafelt Bypass, he gave a best-case timescale: "The notice of intention to proceed and the direction order for the A31 Magherafelt bypass were published in September 2010.  It is estimated that it may be possible to commence construction in the last quarter of 2014-15 [ie Spring 2015] if an early decision of funding is made." There is, of course, no guarantee that this scheme will actually get the go-ahead, but at least it's in with a fighting chance.

19 Sep 2010: Roads Service have finally published the Report of the Inspector of the Public Inquiry, which was held almost a year and a half ago. You can download and read the entire Report here. The Inspector heard a large number of comments, but only recommended one change. He recommended that instead of stopping up Killyneese Road, there should be a limited-headroom underpass to permit movements of pedestrians, livestock and cars. Roads Service have accepted this recommendation and announced on 13 September that they are proceeding to the next stage, which is to draw up all the "statutory orders". This just means that they will produce the necessary legal documents such as the Direction Order (giving permission to build a new trunk road) and the Vesting Order (giving Roads Service the right to buy the land needed). There is still no firm timetable for construction, which is currently given as "2013 to 2018". The cost is still being quoted as "£36m".

14 Dec 2009: The public inquiry was held in April and early May 2009. The Inspector's report is now in the hands of Roads Service, who (according to this press release from last week) are not planning to publish the report until April/May 2010 when they release their reponse and Departmental Decision (ie what they plan to do next). Construction is still on the long finger, currently estimated to be between 2013 and 2018.

1 Mar 2009: The scheme proposals have now gone to a Public Inquiry. The inquiry will be held in the offices of Magherafelt Borough Council and will begin on 29 April 2009. The Departmental Statement into the scheme has been published, detailing the proposal for the inquiry. These show that the cost estimate is now £36, up from the £33m quoted last May. Also, Roads Service issued a leaflet on the scheme in November 2008. It doesn't say anything new, but provides a useful summary of the scheme.

16 May 2008: Roads Service has published two statutory notices: the Notice of Intention to Make a Direction Order (needed to legally create a new trunk road) and Notice of Intention to Make a Vesting Order (needed to acquire the required land). This press release from May 2008 suggests that the cost has jumped almost 300% from £13m to £33m. This is a huge jump, but is likely due to the fact that the chosen route is much longer and over much more challenging terrain than previously estimated. In addition, the "Investment Delivery Plan For Roads" published in April 2008 has made it clear that the scheme will not begin until at least 2013, due to money shortages, and could be even later than this.

3 Mar 2008: A leaflet was released by Roads Service in February which gave further details of what is proposed. The project will consist of a high-quality single-carriageway road with 1m wide hard strips. Other than the four roundabouts (see map above) there will be no other accesses, with minor roads either closed, diverted or bridged. The proposed route now differs from that first proposed in 2005 since it now follows an offline route all the way to the Castledawson roundabout, instead of simply joining the A31 at the northern edge of the town. There is also an indication that some sections of the road will feature a 2+1 overtaking lane arrangement. Subject to a smooth run through statutory processes, work may begin in 2011 with completion two years later

17 Nov 2007: According to a news article in the Mid Ulster Mail on 18 Oct 2007, the consultants who were appointed in 2006 have now added two further route options in addition to the one included in the original consultation document "within a large study area to the East and the North of the town". The final route may be one of these, or a combination of them. A further consulation will apparently take place once the Preferred Route has been decided.