A32 Cherrymount Link, Enniskillen

 

Status
Construction scheme (completed)
Contractor: PT McWilliams and McLaughlin & Harvey joint venture
Where
To link the north and east of Enniskillen, bypassing the town centre.
Total Length

1.6 km / 1.0 miles of new road, plus
0.5 km / 0.3 miles of upgraded existing road (at north end)

Dates

Scheme included in RSTN plan 2003

Environment Impact Assessment prepared 2005

Preferred route option selected 2007

12 months of advanced site preparation work began Feb 2010.

Tender due to be released Dec 2010 (as of Oct 2009)

Work began 26 Sep 2011

Southern 600 metres opened just before Christmas 2012

Northern stretch opened during January 2013
Remainder officially opened 5 June 2013

(changed from "March 2013" as of Nov 2012, "by April 2013 at latest" as of July 2011)

(Formerly due to commence on site "during 2010" as of May 2009)

Cost

£16m - as of Jun 2013
(revised from £12.85m as of Sep 2011; itself revised from £11m as of Mar 2009, itself revised from £8m as of Dec 2006, itself revised from £3.8m quoted in the Sub-Regional Transportation Plan published in 2006)

Photos
None as yet - please contact me if you have any to contribute.
See Also

General area map

Route map - this Roads Service PDF file has a route map

(See also map below)

A4 Enniskillen Southern Bypass (on this site)
Cherrymount Crannog Crisis - group focusing on the crannog found on the route

Enniskillen is a busy town because it is the crossing point of a number of main routes, most notably the A4 Belfast to Sligo route but also the A32 route north to Irvinestown. As the town lacks any bypasses (other than the Enniskillen Throughpass running parallel to the town centre) strategic traffic has to mingle with local traffic in the town. This scheme allows traffic to move between the A4 east of the town and the A32 to the north without having to go close to the town centre.

It consists of a 2.1km link road running from the existing Cherrymount roundabout on the A32 to the B80 Tempo Road. Traffic then uses the existing B80 to reach the A4 road. (This part of the B80 is likely to be re-numbered as A32.) The northern 0.5km already existed, but was upgraded. The map below (not to scale) illustrates the proposals and shows the locations of the four new roundabouts that form part of the plan as well as the existing roundabout on the A32. This means that the completed road ended up with five roundabouts in the space of just 2km, enough to frustrate any motorist! A more detailed map can be seen in this Roads Service document published in July 2010.

Cherrymount Link Enniskillen Plan
(Map based on Google Earth imagery).

The road will be build to 2 lane single carriageway standard (one lane each way) and will very likely include at least one footway and cycleway. Roads Service estimated in this press release that the new road will attract around 9,000 vehicles per day.

The Cherrymount Link scheme was first included in the 2003 Regional Strategic Transport Network Plan. However, the scheme as currently proposed (as of August 2010) follows a slightly different route than originally proposed. This new route, which runs a few hundred metres further east in the central stretch, "made use of better ground conditions and took advantage of anticipated reduced land purchase costs".

Progress

11 June 2013: The road is fully open, and this final update is to bring you four photographs of the newly opened final stretch between the Coa Road roundabout (south end) and the Carran roundabout (north end). These pictures were all provided with thanks to Dave Sweeney. The pictures are arranged in order from north to south.


Pic 1:
Starting just north of the Carran roundabout, this is the unusual one-lane dual-carriageway stretch, with Carran roundabout ahead. This stretch opened in January 2013. 7 June 2013 [Dave Sweeney]

Pic 2: Continuing through Carran roundabout onto the stretch that has just opened, this is the view south-east from just south of the Carran roundabout. 7 June 2013 [Dave Sweeney]

Pic 3: Driving up to the top of the hill shown in the previous photo, this is the view south-east down the other side towards Coa Road roundabout. The Drumclay Crannog site was about half way between the camera and the roundabout. 7 June 2013 [Dave Sweeney]

Pic 4: Continuing our journey, this is the view north-west from just north of the Coa Road roundabout (ie we have turned round and are looking back up the hill have just come down). The site of Drumclay Crannog was about half way along this stretch, close to where the men are standing. 7 June 2013 [Dave Sweeney]

5 June 2013: The Cherrymount Link was officially opened today by the "Roads" Minister (see photo below), ahead of the G8 summit as promised back in March but behind the original estimated opening date of "spring 2013". The delay was due to the discovery of the Dumclay Crannog (see earlier updates below) which held up work by six months. Despite this, the opening was only slightly behind the original scheduled opening date, which means that the contractor would likely have finished ahead of schedule without the crannog discovery. The cost of the scheme was given in the press release as £16m, which is just over £3m more than the cost of £12.85m given back when work began in September 2011. In the minutes of a Roads Service board meeting held in December 2012, it was estimated that the archaeological dig on the route of the Cherrymount Link would cost £2.2m over and above the planned costs, of which £1.4m would be met by the DRD, which would only account for half of the cost increase. Perhaps the remainder represents the costs incurred by delaying the construction work. You can see local coverage plus a photograph in the Fermanagh Herald. Two sections of the road had been opened some months ago, but without the central stretch that was opened today, the road could not achieve one of its main aims, providing a way for traffic going between the north and the east of the town to bypass the congested Gaol Square. This will impact not just on the traffic in question, but other traffic that still has to use Gaol Square. Well done to the contractor.


The "Roads" Minister Danny Kennedy (3rd from left) opening the A32 Cherrymount Link on 5 June 2013. Photo from Tom Elliott MLA, via Twitter.

15 Apr 2013: Today was the last day of the dig at Drumclay Crannog site, the archaeologists having received a final one week extension. After today the contractors will presumably move in and finish the road, a process that is estimated to take between 4 and 6 weeks, so the road is likely to be open by the start of June and certainly by the G8 Summit which is to take place in Fermanagh during June. This picture, posted on Twitter about two months ago, shows how close the road's unfinished earthworks are to the site. The crannog has proven to be truly remarkable, and the information uncovered will be examined for years. The latest twist was the revelation that the body of a 15th or 16th century woman had been found on the site. There is going to be much discussion in the coming months between various government agencies about exactly how the road ended up being routed on top of a site whose location was apparently known precisely since at least the first OS maps of the mid 1800s, and so this could prove to be a heated discussion. But from the road's point of view, it looks like the Cherrymount Link will finally be completed within a few weeks, about 20 months after work began.

9 Mar 2013: Last week the archaeologists working on the Drumclay Crannog site (which is approximately here), who had a deadline of the end of March, were given another extension of one week, the Easter week, presumably up to around 7th April. The messages coming out suggest that this is likely to be the final extension. The DRD seems keen to have the road open before the G8 summit takes place in County Fermanagh in June. The contractor has previously estimated that it will take 4-6 weeks to complete the road once the archaeologists leave, so that means we could see the road open by the second half of May. To recap, the northern 600 metres and the southern 600 metres of the 2.1km road are now open, while the middle bit awaits the completion of the archaeological dig. Meanwhile, site visitor Dave Sweeney has sent two photos taken from the new roundabout at the Carran Industrial Estate towards the north end of the scheme, which I include below. Picture 1 shows the view north west from this roundabout along the stretch that is now open. This stretch was an upgrade of an existing road, which can be seen here as it looked before the upgrade. The main difference you will see is that it has morphed into a single-lane dual-carriageway, a rare beast indeed! This is only done in places where the planners really don't want you turning right and acts to physically prevent such a manoeuvre. Since there are several side roads on this stretch, people wishing to turn right must turn left and use the next roundabout to turn around. There are likely to be two reasons for this (i) to improve safety by avoiding right-turn type accidents (ii) to improve traffic flow by preventing turning vehicles from blocking the road. Picture 2 shows the view south east along the as-yet unopened stretch heading towards Drumclay Crannog (not visible) which is apparently completely finished save for that stretch.


Pic 1: View north west along the opened northern stretch of Cherrymount Link
from Carran roundabout on 7 Mar 2013 [Dave Sweeney]

Pic 2: View south east along completed but unopened part of Cherrymount Link
from Carran roundabout on 7 Mar 2013 [Dave Sweeney]

11 Feb 2013: In the minutes of a Roads Service board meeting held in December, but just published, it is estimated that the archaeological dig on the route of the Cherrymount Link will cost £2.2m over and above the planned costs, of which £0.8m is being funded by the DOE's Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the remainder by the DRD. The road is now finished except for a 150 metre section at the site of the remarkable Drumclay Crannog. The archaeological dig is currently planned to finish at the end of March, but may in practice get extended until June. The contractor estimates that, once the dig is concluded, it will take 4-6 weeks to complete the missing stretch of road. This means that the earliest opening date for the road, assuming no extension to the dig, would be mid May. If the dig is extended to June, the opening date would then be mid August.

14 Jan 2013: Although I haven't visited the site, it's been confirmed by two different people that the southern 600 metre stretch of the Cherrymount Link between the Tempo Road and Lower Chanterhill Road [Coa Road] roundabouts was certainly open to traffic on Friday 4th January, and may have been opened before Christmas. (I think I may have referred to this as the "northern" stretch on Twitter - apologies!) The northern stretch, between the A32 Irvinestown Road and Carran Industrial Estate, is due to open during this month (if it has not already). The central stretch, which is largely completed but awaiting the completion of the archaeology at Drumclay Crannog, is officially due to open in June, but in practice it may be later than this given that there is a good chance that the dig might get extended to June. In an article in the Impartial Reporter, a Roads Service representative said "Generally, the response we are getting [to the opening of the southern stretch] is very, very positive and encouraging. People would like to see it finished. At the moment if you are coming from the Tempo Road to the length of the Coa Road, you can have traffic queues going out to the Irvinestown Road, which to some extent nulifies the benefit." The article also gives the views of a local PE teacher on the impact of the new road on an adjacent school, as well as a photo of the new footbridge.

1 Jan 2013: As widely expected, the Minister for the Environment has extended the time for the archaeology dig at Drumclay Crannog by a further 3 months to 31st March. This decision makes sense given the significance of the finds being uncovered, but it will mean that the whole road will now not be open during March. This is because the new road will eventually be built directly across the site of the crannog, and this work cannot take place until the dig is concluded. It is likely that the rest of the road road will be completed with the exception of this short stretch. It is also likely that the parts of the new road on either side of the dig will open in the near future (if they have not already been opened - does anyone know?) but with this gap in the middle. It is also speculated that the March extension will be followed by a further extension into the summer, but only time will tell.

1 Dec 2012: The archaeologists excavating the Drumclay Crannog on the site of the Cherrymount Link today held an open day to let the public see the site. An article in the Impartial Reporter two days ago said that the archaeologists would ideally like to have until next June, which would see the opening of this stretch of the A32 delayed until August. The article also confirms that the dig is costing the taxpayer £50,000 per week, which is £1.4m so far. It seems likely that following the completion of the dig there will be a review both within the DRD and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) to see if any lessons can be learned from this episode.

23 Nov 2012: Following my last update, a news article in the Impartial Reporter has shed further light on the effect of the archaeological dig ("Drumclay Crannog") on this project. The article quotes Roads Service as follows: "It is anticipated that the sections between Coa Road and Tempo Road and also between the Irvinestown Road and Carn Industrial estate will be complete and available to traffic prior to the Christmas break. The archaeological dig is due to stop in December and it is anticipated that the remaining section of new road between Coa Road and Carn will be completed and available to traffic in March 2013." In other words, they'll open the bits on either side and finish the job when the archeaologists are done. Sources have told me that this site could be one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in Northern Ireland in the past 40 years, in which case there is no question that the archaeologists need to be given the time they need. There is very likely to be more publicity about this over the next fortnight. The news article also claims that the road will open "a year behind schedule". This is not correct - when work began in 2011 completion was estimated to be "spring 2013", which is still the case. The contractor stands to be paid compensation as a result of the delay, which will increase the total cost of the project. How much we are talking will depend on how long the dig lasts. With thanks to Dave Sweeney for letting me know about this news report.

20 Nov 2012: The Cherrymount Link scheme has now been underway for 14 months. In a press release issued yesterday, the "Roads" Minister indicated that the scheme may be open earlier than anticipated, ie "early in the New Year". It must, therefore, be in the final stages of work. However he did add the caveat that this was "subject to the completion of an ongoing archaeological dig", undoubtedly the archaeologically significant crannog that was discovered in July right in the path of the road (see previous update). According to this site, the excavation will continue until at least Christmas, and possibly longer: hence the uncertainty in the opening schedule. Since the crannog is right in the path of the road, it may be that just this one bit will need built at a late stage. It is, of course, absolutely vital that the archaeologists are allowed the time to record this site fully. Some discussion of this issue from an archaeologist's point of view, and some photos, can be found here.

30 July 2012: Since the last update, the historical crannog that has been found on the site of the Cherrymount Link has turned out to be even more significant than thought. It is now possible that it is over 1000 years old, and archaeologists are concerned that the 7 weeks currently allocated for excavation will be inadequate to preserve the site. In fact, the Institute for Archaeologists have raised concerns about it (see BBC news story). This has resulted in the Environment Minister weighing into the debate, and imposing a ban on construction vehicles passing close to the site. Roads Service have said that, had they known the site was there, they would have attempted to route the road around the site. As it stands, the site will be destroyed by the work, so the Environment Minister may want to allocate more time for an exhaustive, documented excavation. Roads Service are obliged to pay all the costs associated with the archaeological dig. The irony is that this site would have remained buried and unknown to archaeology had it not been for this road scheme.

16 Jul 2012: This update is primarily to bring you four fantastic pictures, kindly sent by a contributor who prefers to remain anonymous. They were taken about a week ago - see below. The same person also drew my attention to this news story which details some fascinating archaeological finds that have been made along the route of Cherrymount Link in recent weeks. The most exciting is the remains of a 700 year old crannog, suggesting that at that time the peatland here was a lake.


1. At the northern end of the scheme, this is the view south from close to Carran Crescent (to the left). This part of Cherrymount Link actually already existed (see Streetview), but is being realigned due to the construction of this roundabout. A piece of the old road is just visible on the right, behind the pile of soil. Taken 10 July 2012. [Anonymous Contributor]

2. The view north towards the footbridge from Tempo Road, at the southern end of the scheme. The bridge will connect a nearby school to its playing fields. Taken 10 July 2012. [Anonymous Contributor]


3. A more zoomed-out view of the Cherrymount Link seen looking north from B80 Tempo Road. The stretch of the B80 from here into Enniskillen will become part of the A32 once the scheme is completed, to complete the new route that the A32 will take drivers. Taken 10 July 2012. [Anonymous Contributor]


4. The new Tempo Road roundabout seen looking south from Cherrymount Link. This roundabout is open and in use, but the Cherrymount Link remains closed. Taken 10 July 2012. [Anonymous Contributor]

3 Jul 2012: In their report to Fermanagh District Council at the end of May, Roads Service included some brief information as well as two photographs which I reproduce below. If these photographs are anything to judge by, progress has been very good with sections of road surface being laid already.

A32 Cherrymount Link
The Cherrymount Link under construction, approx May 2012. [Roads Service image from here]
Cherrymount Link
Same view as above, but from the new road itself. [Roads Service image from here]

24 Jun 2012: Work has now been underway on this scheme for 9 months. Roads Service published an update on progress on this scheme six days ago. The press release was sent out to alert a temporary closure of B80 Tempo Road this weekend, but it also gave details of what has been achieved so far: "Construction work is well advanced between the Coa Road and the Tempo Road and two new footbridges have been erected on this section. Road widening of the existing Cherrymount Link Road to the north of the scheme is also ongoing and treatment of the poor ground conditions in the middle section is progressing well." This is excellent news. The press release also notes that the anticipated completion date is still "early" 2013, ie we are roughly at the half way point. Meanwhile, the ISNI website has got three photos of progress on the scheme, although they date from March. Sadly, the contractor McLaughlin and Harvey doesn't even seem to have a page about the scheme on their site, nor does PT McWilliams.

13 Mar 2012: The scheme has now been underway for 6 months, and I have not been able to get any photos or information about progress, until now. Two local schools visited the scheme, and they have put up photos of the visit on their web sites. These show some indications of the progress of work in the background, including what appears to be the abutments of the footbridge at the south end of the scheme. See the pictures on the St Fancheas College site, and on the St Michael's College site.

17 Dec 2011: I've been contacted by someone who is working on this scheme, and he has clarified a couple of matters. Firstly, the scheme involves 1.5km of new road, (not 1.1km as I had been stating) along with an upgrade to 0.5km of the existing link road at the north end of the scheme. Secondly, the long duration of the scheme (see previous update) is due to "2 sections of ground improvements... these sections involve poor ground conditions with peat and alluvium up to 10m in depth. There are several other contractor design elements including retaining walls, strengthened earthworks and foot bridge design (2 no.)". The scheme has now been underway for three months, and to date work appears to have concentrated on preparing the boggy ground. I have not named the contributor as they are presumably working on the scheme, but thank you!

21 Sep 2011: Much rejoicing can be heard in Enniskillen this week because work on this scheme is finally, finally, starting on Monday 26th September. The Minister issued a press release last week revealing that the successful contractor is a joint venture between PT McWilliams and McLaughlin & Harvey. The same press release confirmed that the total cost of the scheme is £12.85m, of which the cost of the actual construction work is £5.46m. Completion is due "by Spring 2013", ie about a year and a half from now, which is a surprisingly long time to build 0.7 miles of single carriageway road. But perhaps we should not quibble, given how long this scheme has been in the pipeline.

4 Jul 2011: In a Written Answer in the Assembly two weeks ago, the Minister said that the deadline for contractors to submit tenders to construct Cherrymount Link was 16th June and that the tender is due to be awarded in September "to facilitate the completion of works before the end of the 2012/13 financial year". In the current financial climate the contractor will be keen to begin work as soon as possible, so we're looking at a probable start date for the work of this coming Autumn. According to the dates given, the latest completion date would be April 2013, which suggests a maximum construction period of 19 months, possibly less.

14 Jan 2011: Supporters of this scheme should consider themselves lucky today. In the draft DRD budget released yesterday, Cherrymount Link is the only scheme other than the major A5 and A8 schemes to have survived a big cost-cutting exercise. All other strategic schemes in the province have been delayed until at least 2015, with Cherrymount Link being the only one that is still expected to continue as planned. Construction is currently scheduled to begin this year.

11 Sep 2010: Roads Service have released the initial tender for this scheme. This initial tender is to allow interested engineering firms to bid to be included in the more complicated tender which should be released in a few month's time. This two-stage process ensures that only those firms who have a chance of winning the tender can actually tender for it. Neverthless, this means that the ball is rolling and construction appears to be creeping closer.

10 Aug 2010: Roads Service have released an updated leaflet and map of the scheme. This shows that a fourth new roundabout has been added to the central portion of the scheme to serve future developments. Taken together with the existing roundabout on the A32 Irvinestown Road, it seems that the new road will require motorists to negotiate five roundabouts in the space of just 1.1km, which is surely enough to frustrate any motorist!!

7 June 2010: Last December the Minister was only able to say that the Cherrymount Link "could" start in 2011. This now seems more certain, because in this press release from three days ago the Minister said "It is... anticipated that the ground consolidation measures taking effect at Cherrymount Link, Enniskillen, will be followed by the main construction works next year". This will be encouraging for the people of Enniskillen.

21 Apr 2010: The cost estimate for the scheme has risen again. According to updated information on the Roads Service web site, the scheme is now estimated to cost £12-16m, an increase on the £11m being quoted until recently. The main construction contract is still scheduled to be put out to tender in December 2010, so we could see construction begin later in 2011 or early 2012.

16 Feb 2010: According to an article in the Fermanagh Herald, contractors have begun work preparing the ground along the route of the new road by infilling the soft, waterlogged land. This job will take about 12 months, and so it has begun now so that it is completed by the time construction on the actual road begins, currently estimated to be sometime in 2011. For clarity, this does NOT mark the commencement of construction of the new road itself, since this is an entirely separate contract. Construction of the road is currently waiting for the approval of funding, the timing of which is uncertain in the current financial climate. However, the work that has begun does strongly reassure the people of Enniskillen that Roads Service are committed to proceeding with the scheme. The article also notes that the scheme will include two footbridges - one near Coa Road, and another to give access to the playing fields of St Michael's College.

4 Dec 2009: In one of these Written Answers, the Minister of Regional Development has confirmed what we suspected in October, namely that construction has got pushed back into 2011. The Minister said "My Departmentís Roads Service remains committed to the completion of this worthwhile project. The land required for the construction of the Cherrymount Link Road has been acquired, and construction work could start in 2011, subject to the level of funding available at that time." Even this statement is non-committal, and suggests that funding pressures are starting to show. Understandably, the local media is not impressed. Roads Service have also said that the land for the scheme has now been fully acquired.

18 Oct 2009: This scheme has appeared on the "future contracts" section of the Roads Service web site, and the news is not good in terms of timescale. Although Roads Service said in June that the scheme would hopefully get underway "during 2010" according to the tender information the tender is not even due to be released until December 2010, meaning that work will not begin until 2011 at the earliest. Interestingly, the tender says that there will be 500 metres of "single lane dualling" (ie one lane each way with a central barrier) and two footbridges. The contract duration has now been given as "30 months", ie 2.5 years. If this means the time it will take to construct the road, then it seems an awfully long time for such a small scheme. By this timetable the earliest we can expect completion of the road is mid 2013.

8 June 2009: At a meeting with Fermanagh District Council two weeks ago, Roads Service said that the Environmental Statement, Notice to Proceed with a Direction Order, and Vesting Order were published in March. They also said that the intention is to commence on the ground during 2010.

9 Mar 2009: The last time we were given an estimate of the cost of this scheme was in December 2006, when the cost was given as £8m. The DRD Minister has now updated this, and the new figure is £11m. This is likely due to the development of the design which tends to add new elements.

24 Feb 2009: Roads Service published their notice of intention to proceed with the scheme two weeks ago. The document gives a summary of the scheme, the environmental impact, and an outline of the process that was taken to arrive at the final proposal. The document states that the nothernmost 500 metres will be a single-lane dual-carriageway (ie one lane each way separated by a barrier) which is quite an unusual, but also very safe, design that eliminates accidents associated with right turns. Although information in April 2008 was that work would commence in "2008/09", this has now been pushed back a bit. According to the Roads Service report to Fermanagh District Council in November 2008, the land will be purchased by April 2009 and "It is hoped that an advanced earthworks contract can then commence on site during 2009/10." The final cost is also unclear, since the last published estimate of £8m was in 2006.

27 Jun 2008: As suspected, this Legal Order has been passed which will make the Cherrymount Link part of the A32. The part of the B80 Tempo Road that runs from the planned Cherrymount Link to the A4 Dublin Road will also be part of the A32. What will happen to the existing stretch of the A32 Irvinestown Road that will be bypassed by the Cherrymount Link is unclear, but it will likely be downgraded to a B-road once the new road is opened.

28 Apr 2008: According to the Investment Delivery Strategy for Roads of April 2008, the scheme is set to commence in "2008/09" with completion due in "2009/10".

4 Nov 2007: A public display of the selected route will take place in Erne Integrated College on 5th November. The timescale for commencement of construction is now slightly more specific with work due to begin in either the 2008/09 or 2009/10 financial years depending on how quickly the statutory processes are concluded.

14 Feb 2007: At a meeting between Fermanagh Council and the Roads Service on 6 December 2006, it was revealed that construction has been pushed well back from the April 2007-April 2008 slot claimed by Roads Service in 2006. They are now anticipating construction in the period 2010-2011. Also, they have revised the cost up from £3.8m to £8m which has been attributed to extending the scheme, undertaking widening work and increases in land value. The council has expressed its disapproval at the timescale of the whole project from planning to completion, currently said to be 2007-2011.

15 Nov 2006: According to this Parliamentary written answer, dating from March 2006, work is anticipated to begin in the 2007/08 financial year, which means between April 2007 and April 2008.