A4 Enniskillen Southern Bypass

 

Status
Construction scheme (future)
Where
To connect the A4 on each side of Enniskillen by building a bypass to 2+1 standard to the south of the town.
Total Length
2.0 km / 1.3 miles
Dates

Jul 2006 - Proposed in "Expanding the SRI Programme" document

Apr 2008 - Scheme given go-ahead to enter planning

27 Jul 2011 - Preferred route corridor announced
9 June 2014 - Scheme granted Gateway 0 approval (ie, it passes its strategic assessment)

17 June 2015 - Public exhibition of referred route (the "Stage 2 Assessment")
Mid 2017 - Draft legal orders "could" be published (as of Nov 2016)
Construction to last 20 months (as of Jun 2015)

Cost
30-36m (as of June 2015; figure reported in media but not verified with DRD)
19.2m-31.9m for inner route (as of July 2011)
Changed from 18m as of 2006.
Photos / Map
See below.
See Also

Official web site on scheme - Roads Service

General area map - Multimap

General area map - Google Maps

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

Enniskillen remains a bottleneck for long distance traffic on the Belfast <> Sligo route because all traffic must use the A4 Enniskillen Throughpass which was opened in 1986. While a big improvement over going through the town centre, this still involves going close to the heart of the busy town where strategic traffic has to mingle with local traffic and this delays both groups of users.

This scheme would see the main A4 route diverted to the south of the town. The road, as currently proposed, would be built to 2+1 standard (ie one lane each way plus an alternating overtaking lane) and extend from the A4 Dublin Road at the eastern side of the town, crossing the A509 Derrylin Road and terminating on the A4 Sligo Road at the western side of the town. The road will have to cross the Erne, and the bridge will be a significant structure.

In 2005, Fermanagh District Council issued a report making a number of claims about this road:

  • "Up to 444 commercial cross-border journeys pass through Enniskillen on the average week day on their way to or from the ports of Belfast and Larne."
  • "Time savings [of] 230,000-300,000 hours a year if a southern bypass was built."
  • "Economic growth worth up to 2.5m a year could be prompted."

(source Belfast Telegraph, 1 April 2005)

The traffic benefits of the project are obvious. The DRD estimated in June 2015 that it would take 40% of the traffic on the A4 out of Enniskillen town centre.

Route Options

Roads Service released a leaflet in October 2008 which includes a map showing an "indicative line" for the new road. You can see this further down the page in the update for November 2008. A preferred route was published in June 2015. You can download a map here (link valid Jun 2015), but below I have included my own map showing the approximate route. It would seem likely that the existing road through the town centre would lose the "A4" label, and that this number would be reassigned to the Southern Bypass.



Updates

14 Nov 2016: In response to a Written Question (AQW 5213/16-21) in the Assembly on 26 October the Minister gave slightly more detail than he did earlier in the month. Referring to the preparation of the Environmental Statement and the draft statutory orders (basically, the various legal documents that they have to produce in order to proceed to a likely public inquiry) the Minister said "consultants have recently been appointed to assist my Department in taking the project through this stage". He then went on to say "I hope to be in a position to announce the publication of the draft Orders and Environmental Statement in mid 2017". He did not give any committments beyond this, ie did not commit to providing funding to build the road on any particular timescale, instead just saying that at that point it will "be considered for funding, along with other existing and proposed schemes elsewhere in the north of Ireland". I would not read this in a negative way however - this is the position of any scheme that hasn't got funding yet, so it merely a statement of reality.

23 Oct 2016: The DRD Minister briefly commented on this scheme in the Assembly on 4 October. He said "Work is ongoing to prepare the environmental statement and the draft statutory orders. It is anticipated that those will be published in 2017, which may lead to a public inquiry". This sounds a bit more certain than the language used in May (where he said "possibly early in 2017"). Enniskillen is one of two bypasses that the Minister has specifically mentioned by name (eg at the very bottom of this press release) which allows me to tentatively suggest that this scheme has at least earned the sympathy of the Minister, which bodes well. We have to be careful about the "public inquiry" comment. Once draft orders are published they usually go out to consultation and this will take some time. After that, depending on the comments, a public inquiry may be called but there's no requirement to do this in a particualr timeframe so we can't really say anything about when that might happen. Lack of money will be an issue for the next few years since the Executive is prioritising the flagship projects on the A5 and A6.

2 May 2016: The DRD Minister issued a press release about this scheme back on 25 February. This is a good example of a press release that sounds really good despite saying very little of substance. I struggled to find anything concrete in it, and the best I can do is the comment that "TransportNI is now in the process of appointing engineering consultants to assist in taking forward the production and publication of the Environmental Statement and the draft Statutory Orders" and then, at the end, the comment that these "could be in place early next year". This suggests that the DRD are continuing their design work and are going to be publishing the draft "Statutory Orders", possibly early in 2017. The "Statutory Orders" are the legal documents needed to build a road - these consist of the "Environmental Statement" (which sets out why they think the road is worth building), the "Direction Order" (which gives the DRD permission to build a new trunk road) and the "Vesting Order" (which compels landowners to sell the land needed to build it). They are kept in a draft form until after the public inquiry and, in the case of the Vesting Ooder, are not activated until shortly before construction begins. So basically what we can glean from this press release is that we "might" have these draft legal orders early in 2017. However, speaking in the Assembly a few weeks before this press release the Minister was less optimistic saying "Further progression of the project, through the statutory procedures to construction, are dependent on the availability of finance. Should finance become available, it would take around 18 months to two years before work could start. So it is still some time off".

28 Jun 2015: The DRD have now published their preferred route, which was revealed at a public exhibition on 17 June which approximately 120 people attended. You can download a copy of the leaflet here, but I have included my own map showing the approximate route above. The dates given on the DRD web site suggest that this preferred route was finalised and agreed over a year ago in March 2014, but has only just been published. The route is similar to the route corridor publicised in 2008 (see below), except that it has been decided at the western end to terminate the road at a new roundabout on the A509 Derrylin Road rather than extending it all the way to the western A4. This makes sense since the A509 is itself a strategic road and links to the A4 at a roundabout. Since the new bypass will likely steal the "A4" number from the current route through Enniskillen, I would also assume that the short stretch of A509 between the end of the roundabout and the existing A4 will be re-numbered as part of the A4. At the eastern end the road will begin at a new roundabout just to the north of the Killyhevlin Hotel. This location was chosen partly because it gives the shortest available crossing of the Erne river. West of the Erne crossing, the road hugs the line of some trees, but without passing through them, mirroring the line of some existing high voltage power cables. It would be built to a high standard single-carriageway standard with one lane each way, plus a section of overtaking lane at either end. This is known as a "2+1" configuration. There will be just one intermediate standard T-junction, to provide access to farmland. While T-junctions that permit right turns are not usually provided on new roads these days, this one is unlikely to be a problem as the amount of turning traffic is likely to be extremely low. The road will be equipped with a segregated cycleway along the north side. The design suggests that segregated cycleways will also be provided along the A4 into Enniskillen at the eastern (Killyhevlin) end, and on the connecting section of the A509 at the western end. The local Impartial Reporter has an article on the scheme where it gives a total cost as 30m-36m, although I have not seen this figure verified anywhere. The article also outlines some concerns by local landowners, specifically the Killyhevlin Hotel. Finally, it goes without saying that there is currently no money to build this scheme - see my assessment of the timescale in the previous update below.

10 Jun 2015: The DRD Minister announced yesterday that the preferred route for this scheme had been decided. However, neither the press release nor the DRD web site can tell us what the preferred route actually is! However, there is to be a public exhibition on 17 June in the Ardhowen Theatre. No times are given in the press release, so I'd suggest phoning the Ardhowen before setting out to make sure it is open. The text of the press release suggests that the route will not be dissimilar to the map shown above, except that the final bit connecting the A4 and A509 at the very western end seems to have been dropped. We'll find out more information next week when the exhibition happens. In the Assembly about six weeks ago, the Minister was asked about this scheme and he gave some other useful comments. He said "With modest funding in 2015-16, the scheme could be advanced to draft order stage. That would be the notice of intention to make the direction and vesting orders and the publication of the environmental statement. That would facilitate holding a public inquiry in 2016, if required, and possibly making the direction order in 2016. Thereafter, the delivery of the bypass would be dependent on the availability of finance. In the event that capital funding becomes available, the bypass could commence in 2017, with construction taking approximately 20 months to complete. Landowner consultations have been ongoing, and the project is being reasonably well received." I would treat these dates with a great deal of caution - there are a lot of "coulds" and "possibles" here. A public inquiry in 2016 certainly seems plausible, but a construction start date of 2017 seems highly unlikely given the speed these things move, the current state of finances and the number of other competing schemes, especially the A5 and York Street Interchange schemes.

18 Dec 2014: The Minister confirmed in the Assembly that the work to decide the preferred route of the Enniskillen Bypass is nearly complete and will be announced "early in the new year". This will be done in the form of a public exhibition, presumably somewhere in Enniskillen, which I will publicise as soon as we hear where and when it is to be held. The minister does, however, caution that the progression of the scheme beyond this point will be "subject to finance". And I have to say, the future of finance for road schemes in the province currently looks bleak as departments face ever deeper budget cuts.

13 Oct 2014: As stated in previous updates (see below) the Minister has previously indicated that the "preferred route" for the Enniskillen Bypass will be announced before the end of 2014. In a Question for Written Answer in the Assembly, the Minister said "The Stage 2 report identifying the preferred alignment will be complete in late 2014. At that point I hope to be in a position to announce the publication of the findings of the report and the emerging preferred route." This sounds a little close to the wire for 2014, so we might be looking at the New Year before we hear something, but it does seem that there will be news before too much longer. There was no mention of his previous speculation about the possibility of having a contractor appointed by mid 2018 (see April 2014 update below) which was probably a bit optimistic (although I would be more than happy to be proved wrong!).

16 Aug 2014: We are getting close to the time when the DRD Minister indicated, back in late March, that the preferred route would be published, but nothing has happened as yet. However the DRD web site has had the cryptic comment "Gateway 0 approved by Transport NI Management Group on 9 June 2014" added beside this scheme. "Gateway 0" means that the scheme has passed a strategic assessment. In laymans language, this means that the early work on the scheme has shown that it would be worth building and has now been approved in principle. It also means that the DRD will now proceed to develop more detailed options. This ties in nicely with the anticipated publication of the preferred route, so if there has been no change of plan I would expect to see some sort of announcement before the end of the year.

10 Apr 2014: In a Question for Written Answer in the Assembly two weeks ago, the Minister was asked about this scheme. He then elaborated in the Assembly a few days ago. The preferred route corridor was announced three years ago in July 2011, and he said that the more precisely-defined "preferred route" will be announced "mid to late 2014". He went on to confirm that, as we know, the scheme currently has no funding allocation for construction, so it's impossible to say for sure when it might actually be built. However he did present a timescale of sorts by saying that there would be "potentially, a public inquiry, which could commence as early as 2016" and thereafter "if everything were to go well, we would be looking at procurement and possibly a contractor in place by mid-2018." It's always risky for Ministers to say things like this, so I would tend not to put too much significance on this date, but instead to treat this as the minimum timescale, ie it will not happen before mid 2018. Finally, he gave a cost estimate of 20-30m, which is essentially unchanged from the estimate given in July 2011.

28 May 2013: As far as I can tell, very little has happened on this scheme since the last update in 2011. That has not prevented Fermanagh District Council, who are fierce champions of this scheme, from working away on their own ideas for the scheme. Last week the Impartial Reporter reported that the Council has published some suggested designs for the Erne Bridge section of the bypass, which they estimate to cost between 8.4m and 11.6m. One is shown below. The Council describes it as important to take forward a major capital project to provide a "positive legacy" for hosting the G8 this June, even going so far as to suggest calling it the "G8 Bridge". Since the Bypass is a project being taken forward by the Department for Regional Development, not Fermanagh District Council, these proposals are really nothing more than the council's suggestions, rather than being actual proposals from the project's engineers. In addition, the scheme is still at an early stage and is quite low down on the DRD's list of priority, so construction is likely to be many years away yet, long after the G8 has passed into the pages of history. (Note: towards the end the article says that the "bridge" is estimated to cost 19.2 to 31.9 million, but this actually the cost that the DRD have estimated for construction of the whole bypass, not the bridge element on its own.) With thanks to Bens33 for alerting me to this news article.


One of Fermanagh District Council's proposed designs for the Erne bridge, this one being a rather imposing box girder structure.

12 Aug 2011: The previous update linked to the State 1 Assessment Report which I didn't have time to comment on in late July. It reveals that the planners considered two routes. The one shown on the map above is the originally indicated "inner" route, and it was joined by a second "outer" route further out from the town (south of the Killyhevlin Hotel). In each case there was a "short" version of the route that went from the A4 Dublin Road to the A509, and a "long" version that continued to the A4 Sligo Road. The "outer" route performed poorly in the benefits-cost analysis (ratio of 0.38 for the long option, and 0.82 for the short). As both of these are below 1, it implies that that option would bring fewer benefits than it would cost, mainly because its distance from the town at the eastern end would discourage local traffic from using it. The "inner" route, which begins north of the Kilylhevlin Hotel, performed much better (ratio of 1.43 for the long option, and 2.26 for the short). The planners therefore recommended that only the "inner" route be considered at the next stage of the analysis. Even this option has a couple of possible locations for the major bridge that would be required over the Erne. The document does note that one of these two locations was previously home to a railway bridge (since mostly demolished) and that the new bridge could be built in a similar style as a nod to the past history of the area. The decision as to whether to go with the "short" or the "long" version of the route is still undecided. The A509 currently connects to the A4 Sligo Road via a roundabout, so it would not strike me as a major problem if the Southern Bypass were to stop on the A509 rather than continuing on to the A4. The only disadvantage would be one extra roundabout to navigate, and a significant increase in traffic on the short shared stretch of the A509.

27 July 2011: The preferred route corridor was announced today. I won't be updating the site for the next fortnight and as I don't have enough time tonight to give a proper analysis of the announcement, I recommend you look at the documents here, particularly the Executive Summary. The preferred route is broadly in agreement with the green line on the map above. I will give a more comprehensive update in August. According to the press release a public display of the preferred route to be held "in the Town Hall, the public library and the Roads Service Section Office at Castle Barracks in Enniskillen from Wednesday 27 July up to Wednesday 31 August 2011".

4 Jul 2011: As far as I am aware, the public consultation anticipated for last Autumn did not take place. Instead, the Minister has now said that a public exhibition of the preferred route for the Southern Bypass will take place in Enniskillen "in July 2011", although no actual date, time or venue is given. These exhibitions are often held with only a few days' notice online, so I will keep an eye out for any announcements. The Minister cautions that there is currently no money to actually build this road, so for now it will remain a future plan.

22 November 2009: According to this press release, Roads Service are planning to hold a public consultation event in "Autumn 2010" to reveal the general route corridor (note: not the actual route) that is being proposed for the Southern Bypass. Meanwhile, the Impartial Reporter has published an article reporting that Roads Service are exploring the possibility of introducing a one-way system in the town to ease traffic in the interim, while the Southern Bypass is being planned. (With thanks to Gary Potter).

7 June 2009: At a meeting with Fermanagh District Council two weeks ago, Roads Service confirmed that they have now appointed consultants to commence route selection work. Construction is still unlikely to commence before 2013, and perhaps not until 2018.

24 Nov 2008: Roads Service released a leaflet in October 2008 which includes a map that provides the first indications of the route that is being considered (see below). It does not give any other information on the scheme, other than to confirm that construction is anticipated between 2013 and 2018.

Map of the proposed route of the Enniskillen Southern Bypass as of October 2008.

(Map not exactly to scale; based on Google Earth imagery)

Photos

The existing A4 Dublin Road, seen looking south, from opposite the Killyhevlin Hotel in March 2007. This image was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph's page on the Geograph website for the photographer's contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by Kenneth Allen and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

The existing A4 Enniskillen Throughpass (here caught early on a Sunday morning in 2002) carries the A4 parallel to the town centre but this route is increasingly congested at peak times. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

The Erne as seen from the Kilyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen in 2008. The new road will have to cross the Erne very close to here, probably to the right of this shot. [Wesley Johnston]