A6 Dualling Dungiven to Londonderry

 

Status
Construction scheme (future)
Scheme
New high-quality dual-carriageway to replace the existing single-carriageway A6 from Dungiven to Derry; including a bypass around the south side of Dungiven.
Total Length
30.0km / 18.8 miles
of which Dungiven Bypass section is 4.8km / 3.0 miles
Dates

Mar 2005 - Pilot study to select route from Castledawson to Derry announced.

Dec 2005 - Funding announced to build section from Dungiven to Derry.

Feb 2007 - Preliminary route corridor selected.

May 2008 - Five route options published.

6 May 2009 - Preferred route announced.

14 Dec 2011 - Draft legal documents published.
Jan 2012 - Public exhibitions.

24 Sep 2012 to 2 Oct 2012 - Public Inquiry held.

ca End Mar 2013 - Inspector submitted Public Inquiry report.

Late 2014 or 2015 - Departmental Statement anticipated (changed from Apr 2014 as of Feb 2014).
Construction due after 2015 (as of Feb 2012).

Dungiven Bypass may be built ahead of the main scheme (as of Mar 2011).

(changed from "after 2015" as of Jan 2011, and "early 2013" as of Jul 2010).

Cost

£350m - £390m (as of Mar 2011)
or £60-80m for Dungiven Bypass section only

(Changed from £320-390m as of Dec 2009; £320m as of Dec 2008 £300m as of Jun 2008 and £250 million as of 2005)

Photos
See below.
See Also

General area map.

Roads Service web site on scheme - very detailed information including full reports into Dungiven Bypass and rest of scheme.

This major project was announced on 13 December 2005 by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain as part of a larger investment package for the city of Derry. It will see a dual-carriageway bypass of Dungiven town and dualling of the existing A6 from there to the A2 on the north-eastern periphery of Derry city. The road will be build to a high quality with two lanes each way, no breaks in the central barrier and fully grade separated junctions (ie flyovers). Plans announced in 2004 for a single-carriageway bypass of Dungiven at a cost of £11.1m have been subsumed by this much larger scheme, although the preliminary work done will still apply. As of 2008 the scheme was listed in Roads Service's "preparation pool", meaning commencement is anticipated "within 5 years". The map below shows the section of the A6 affected by this upgrade.

Route

The chosen route closely follows the existing A6, except that it bypasses Drumahoe well to the north at the Derry end, and bypasses Dungiven to the south. In May 2009 Roads Service published maps showing the chosen route. The maps are (as of May 2009) available from the following links:

Roads Service have put an enormous amount of information on their web site about this scheme (see link at top of page). It includes the 2004 report into the single-carriageway Dungiven Bypass then proposed. It also includes the 2007 report into dualling the entire A6 route from Castledawson to Derry. The current scheme is based on portions of both of these.

Strip Junction Map

This is a strip map of the design that was published in May 2009. Note that the design may change between this map and construction due to the evolution of the design, and the public inquiry.


WEST

Begins on A2 dual-carriageway, Derry

2+2 lanes

STRADREAGH
or GRANSHA

 

A2 Clooney

Road

(into Derry)

 Local access  

 A2 Clooney

 Road

 (to Limavady)


5.3 km / 3.3 miles - 2+2 lanes

DRUMAHOE

B? Glenshane

Road

(existing A6)

(into Derry).

 Tirbracken

 Road

 
2.8 km / 1.7 miles - 2+2 lanes

TAMNAHERIN

or THE CROSS

 

Local access

Local access

 Tamnaherin

 Road


2.0 km / 1.2 miles - 2+2 lanes

ARDMORE ROAD
(BURNTOLLET)

Westbound access only.

 

 Faughan River

 Ardmore Road

.

 Burntollet

 Bridge

 

.

 
2.5 km / 1.6 miles - 2+2 lanes

KILLALOO

or GULF ROAD

B74 Glenshane

Road

(Claudy west)

 Gulf Road
 

2.5 km / 1.5 miles - 2+2 lanes

CLAUDY

or BARANAILT ROAD

B69 Baranailt

Road (into

Claudy)

 B69 Baranailt

 Road (towards

 Limavady)


3.9 km / 2.4 miles - 2+2 lanes

BALLYHANEDIN ROAD

This junction has been dropped from the plans as of Dec 2011

Ballyhanedin

Road

 Local access

 Ballyhanedin

 Road

 Local access

 
6.1 km / 3.8 miles - 2+2 lanes

KILLUNAGHT ROAD

or FOREGLEN
This junction has been dropped from the plans as of Dec 2011

Killunaght Road 

 B? (former A6)

 (to Foreglen)

 B? (former A6)

 (to Dungiven)

 
3.0 km / 1.9 miles - 2+2 lanes

FEENY ROAD

or DUNGIVEN WEST

B74 Feeny

Road

 B74 Feeny

 Road (into

 Dungiven)


2.5 km / 1.6 miles - 2+2 lanes

DUNGIVEN EAST

 

 B? Glenshane

 Road

 (existing A6;

 into Dungiven)

 Local access

 

EAST

Terminates as single-carriageway A6 towards Belfast

1 lane each way

Updates

14 Sep 2014: It has now been a year-and-a-half since the DRD Minister was given the inspector's report into the public inquiry into this scheme which was held in September and October 2012. In February 2014 he had indicated that he would make a statement "later this financial year", which presumably meant April 2014, but this date also came and went with no statement. So it has now been 18 months since he received the report, so it's getting a bit hard to explain the ongoing absence of any statement. One possibility is that Northern Ireland's financial situation is so uncertain, and with the way forward for the A5 scheme still not being clear, that the Minister does not want to rashly commit to a particular course of action that he may not be able to follow through with. Another possibility is that the Inquiry Inspector has identified an issue that is proving particularly lengthy to resolve. The Minister was asked about this very issue in the Assembly on 8 September, when he said "I am considering a response to [the Inspector's] recommendations and will issue the departmental statement in due course when I am satisfied that all issues, a number of which are complex, have been appropriately reviewed." This is very vague. Although he says some of the outstanding issues are "complex" this doesn't necessarily imply that this complexity is the root cause of the delay, which I tend to suspect is more to do with financial uncertainty. However, he did give great hope to the people of Dungiven - the only non-bypassed town on the whole Belfast to Derry route - by basically saying that the Dungiven Bypass will be built ahead of the whole scheme. When asked if he would consider "decoupling the bypass at Dungiven from the larger project" his reply was "I am happy to confirm that I have taken the decision that the various components of the entire scheme can be decoupled. Subject to the finance being made available and the other issues being resolved, we can proceed." That is as close to a commitment as I have seen to date and is a very positive sign that this is going to be what happens. So I think we can expect that when the Minister finally makes his statement, it will be to say that the scheme is to be broken into two parts - the Derry to Dungiven stretch, and the Dungiven Bypass with the latter to progress first.

10 Apr 2014: Based on the comment the Minister made in February 2014 (see below) I had expected us to have the Inspector's Report from the Public Inquiry and the DRD's Departmental Statement by now. This latter document is the one outlining how the DRD will respond to any recommendations the inspector made and setting out what they plan to do next. However, in the Assembly a few days ago the Minister was asked about the scheme and explained that "we are still considering the inspector's report arising out of the public inquiry.  The issues are not yet concluded, and we hope to make progress on outlining our thoughts on that in the not-too-distant future". So it seems we'll have to wait a bit longer. Certainly the political pressure on the Minister to detach the Dungiven Bypass element of the scheme and progress it before the rest of the scheme is great, and I would not be surprised if this is what eventually happens in the face of tight budgets.

19 Mar 2014: In the Assembly yesterday, the Minister gave an update on this scheme. This isn't the official statement that we're still anticipating in the near future (see previous update below), but is useful nonetheless. We have known since June 2012 that the DRD has prepared a plan to split the scheme into two bits, which would allow the Dungiven Bypass stretch to be built ahead of the rest of the scheme in the evening of full funding being an issue. In the Assembly today, he added that it would be possible to split the project into three by also separating off the upgrade of the short stretch of the existing A2 at the Derry end of the scheme (Maydown to Caw roundbout). In reality, this is a relatively tiny component of the whole scheme, so doesn't change that much. The long (approx 25km) stretch from Dungiven to Maydown roundabout constitutes the bulk of the scheme. We are still waiting for a more formal announcement within the next few weeks which should set out more clearly what the Minister intends to do next with this scheme.

10 Feb 2014: Ten days ago I commented that it was now some time since the DRD Minister had received the report from the Inspector of the Public Inquiry that sat in September 2012, and this week the Minister was asked about it via a Question for Written Answer. He said "I expect to make a Departmental Statement on the way forward later this financial year", which presumably means by the end of March 2014. A Departmental Statement is the document usually released along with the Inspector's Report and outlines how the DRD will respond to any recommendations in the Inspector's Report and sets out a decision on whether or not to proceed. However, this does not mean that the construction process would then begin, as the scheme then has to wait for legal orders to be made (eg, to buy the necessary land) and most importantly for funding from the Executive, which may not be forthcoming at this time since the Minister has previously indicated that he's unwilling to progress both the A5 and A6 schemes simultaneously.

31 Jan 2014: In my update on 15 April 2013 (below) I noted that the DRD Minister had received the report from the Inspector of the Public Inquiry that sat in September 2012. Experience of recent years is such that I anticipated that this would be published before the end of 2013, but this has not happened. They're not obliged to release it under any particular timescale, but I'm just flagging up the fact that they've now had it for almost ten months, which is quite a long time. Perhaps there is a reluctance to publish the report ahead of a funding announcement as this would simply draw attention to the fact that this is yet another scheme serving Derry that hasn't gone ahead! There is still nothing more on the suggestion that the Dungiven Bypass scheme might get split off and implemented at an earlier date than the rest of the scheme, despite ongoing local interest in the matter.

1 May 2013: In my previous update I commented that with the 12-18 month delay to the A5 project, the "Dungiven Bypass" element of this scheme must surely be high up the list of possible alternative schemes to be progressed in the meantime. In the Assembly yesterday the Minister seemed favourable to the idea when that precise question was put to him. He said "I am pleased to confirm that the design of the scheme allows for the Dungiven bypass to be taken forward and completed as the first phase of the scheme. It will provide 4·8 kilometres of dual carriageway bypassing Dungiven to the south at a total cost in the range of £60 million to £80 million. The construction of this element of the scheme would be dependent — and this is the key thing — on the availability of finance in subsequent periods." The last sentence is something he 'has to say' since the Executive has not yet agreed how the A5 money will be reallocated, but the first two sentences show that decoupling the Bypass section from the larger scheme is a distinct possibility. The main bit of work still to be done is the analysis of the Inspector's Report from last September's Public Inquiry which has been received but not published.

15 Apr 2013: According to a Question for Written Answer in the Assembly, the DRD Minister has now received the report from the Inspector at last September's Public Inquiry. This is almost exactly to the timescale predicted at the end of the Inquiry (see update below for 4 Oct) which is nice. The report will not be published just yet. Typically, the DRD take a few months to examine it and respond to any recommendations before publishing both the inspector's report and their response (called a "Departmental Statement") simultaneously. We could expect to see this before the end of 2013. Given the recent delays on the A5 project, the "Dungiven Bypass" element of this scheme (a small but critical part of the whole scheme) is surely high up on the list of possible schemes to be taken forward at an earlier date, so it is very timely that the Public Inquiry report has been received. Let us hope that there were not too many issues with the plans.

24 Oct 2012: For those with a particular interest in this scheme, Roads Service have just published transcripts of the six day Public Inquiry that took place a month ago. You can download them here. This is only the third time that I know of that Roads Service have published such transcripts (the first two being for the A55 at Knock and the A5 WTC) and is a very welcome development for public transparency. Happy reading!

4 Oct 2012: The Public Inquiry into this scheme took place as planned from 24th September to 2nd October, and finished on schedule having heard over 125 objections. The Inspector, JA Robb, will finish by conducting site visits on 9th and 10th October. The DRD say that they expect the Inspector to submit his report "before the end of March 2013", but it is important to note that it will not be published at that point. The DRD typically take a few months more to consider the recommendations and outline their response before publishing it. So we might expect to see it around the summer time next year. Detailed information about the objections, along with transcripts of the Public Inquiry are (or soon will be) available here. With thanks to Paul McCloskey. Some (including me!) are speculating that the unexpected delays to the A5 scheme over the past month might free up some money over the coming months that could potentially be redirected to the Dungiven Bypass element of this scheme. This is quite possible, since the Minister has already indicated that he is sympathetic to the idea of proceeding with the Dungiven Bypass ahead of the rest of the scheme. Watch this space.

26 Jun 2012: We now know that the Public Inquiry into this scheme will begin at 10am on 24 September 2012, in the Roe Park Hotel, 40 Drumrane Road, Limavady BT49 9LB. The Inspector will be JA Robb, who was also the Inspector for the A8 Larne Public Inquiry and the A6 Castledawson-Randalstown dualling Public Inquiry. Roads Service has also published their pre-Inquiry Departmental Statement, which sets out in considerable detail their case for building the road as proposed. This contains some interesting historical information and is worth a read for that reason alone. In another interesting development, speaking in the Assembly yesterday the DRD Minister gave a strong hint that the Dungiven Bypass section may be decoupled from the rest of the scheme and built separately. They had previously resisted this as it was anticipated that the entire A6 scheme would proceed before too long, and hence there was little to gain by dealing with Dungiven separately. However, as it now seems as if it could be some years before the scheme is built, there would now be merit in building the Dungiven Bypass scheme separately (see update below for 14 Feb 2012). The Minister said: "I can confirm that it will be possible to bring forward the draft statutory Orders for the construction of the bypass at Dungiven ahead of and without compromising the future delivery of the remainder of that scheme. However, this is, of course, all conditional on available funding." This is interesting news.

24 Jun 2012: The DRD Minister has announced that (not surprisingly) a Public Inquiry will be held into this scheme, since it attracted 122 objections during the consultation period between December 2011 and March 2012. The Inquiry will probably be held in late September, and further details are due to be released this week. This is later than anticipated last summer, but still welcome. There is currently no financial commitment to actually build the scheme, but it is important to keep progressing the scheme so that it is 'good to go' if and when money becomes available.

14 Feb 2012: Today saw a major announcement of how the money for roads will be spent over the next four years. This scheme was not among them. This was not surprising, but until now we have had at least hoped that it might begin around 2014/15 (see update below for 11 May 2011). Today's announcement means it won't commence until at least 2015. However, it is disappointing that the Minister has not at least chosen to press ahead with the Dungiven Bypass element of the scheme. Dungiven is the only town not bypassed on the entire A6, and all the traffic pollutes the village. However, it should be said in the Minister's defense that the scheme has not yet had its public inquiry, and this means even the Dungiven Bypass could not commence for at least a couple of years, even if it was decided to go ahead with it separately. The money that is available needs to be spent sooner than that timescale would allow.

8 Jan 2012: Roads Service will be holding the next round of public exhibitions into this scheme this month. As always, I would urge anyone with an interest in the scheme to turn up as this is a vital part of the process, and an opportunity to express your views. According to this press release, issued just before Christmas, the exhibition dates are:

  • 17 and 18 Jan 2012 - Dungiven Sports Pavilion, Chapel Road - 10am to 9pm
  • 24 and 25 Jan 2012 - YMCA, 51 Glenshane Road, Drumahoe - 10am to 9pm
  • 26 Jan 2012 - Strathfoyle Youth Centre, 13 Deramore Drive - 10am to 9pm

The deadline for comments and objections is 2 March 2012.
For those interested in history, this scheme page now contains links to multiple historical documents.

17 Dec 2011: The draft legal orders for this scheme were published on 14th December. These include the Environmental Statement (sets out what impact the scheme will have on society and the environment and is required by law). It also includes the draft legal order (required to build a new trunk road) and the vesting orders, part 1 and part 2 (which define whose land they will be buying to build the road) and some other documents. The Environmental Statement includes revised plans for the junction, which are interesting in that two junctions have been dropped entirely - which is excellent news as they merely provided superfluous links across to the existing A6 which will remain in place as a perfectly adequate route (presumably with a 60mph speed limit) for accessing all the properties along that stretch. The changes made since we were last given junction designs in May 2009 are as follows:

  • The layout of Killaloo junction west of Claudy has been amended slightly - I have altered the strip map above to reflect the new design.
  • Ballyhanedin Road junction east of Claudy has been dropped - the road will be bridged over the A6 but with no access to the A6.
  • Killunaght Road junction near Foreglen has been dropped - the road will be bridged over the A6 but with no access to the A6.

4 Jul 2011: The Minister has confirmed that the draft legal documents required to build the road will be published "later this year", and that the Public Inquiry will likely be held in Spring 2012, slightly later than expected in April. This does not imply that the road will go ahead any earlier than previously stated, merely that Roads Service want to press ahead with the process so that, subject to the Inquiry, construction of the road can go ahead once finance is available.

14 May 2011: Speaking at the Annual Dinner of the Chartered Institution of Highway Enginners Northern Ireland, the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Regional Development Malcolm McKibbin said "development work is proceeding on the A6 schemes and late changes to the draft budget mean that we should also be able to start construction in the last year of the budget period" (quoted in Plant & Civil Engineer, May 2011). There are two "A6 schemes" - this one, and the scheme to dual the A6 from Randalstown to Castledawson. The Minister's comments last month about Dungiven (see previous update) suggest that Mr McKibbin may be referring specifically to this scheme when he says that construction should be able to start, but it's possible he means both. Previously both schemes were delayed until at least 2015. The "last year of the budget period" is the financial year running from April 2014 to April 2015.

27 Apr 2011: The Minister has confirmed in a Written Answer that development work will proceed on this scheme over the next few years, despite there not being enough money to build it. In particular, he suggests that the draft legal documents required to build the road will be released in late 2011, and that the Public Inquiry is likely to take place in "late 2011/early 2012" - somewhat later than was anticipated last Autumn. He also implies again that the 2.5km Dungiven Bypass may be built ahead of the main scheme. The cost is now being given as "£350m-£390m", slightly higher than the figure of "£320-£390m" being quoted in late 2009.

7 Mar 2011: Roads Service have come into some new money, to the tune of £107m, and this press release suggests that some of it may be put towards the A6. The Minister does not say which of the two A6 schemes it refers to (Randalstown to Castledawson or Derry to Dungiven), but his comment that "the Dungiven Bypass will be the priority" suggests it is this scheme. The money is nowhere near enough to complete this entire scheme, so it is possible that the 2.5km Dungiven Bypass section may proceed before the rest of the scheme - but this is not stated, so we don't know. Dungiven is singled out because it is now the only town on the entire Belfast to Derry route that is not bypassed.

14 Jan 2011: Roads Service have revealed their budget for 2011-2015 and, due to lack of money, this scheme has now been put on hold, seemingly until at least 2015. The only note is that funding will be available to "continue development" of the project, but not actually build it. In the reduced funding climate all available monies are being funnelled into the A5 and A8 schemes.

19 Oct 2010: In a Written Answer in the Assembly, the Minister has said that the legal documents that are required (see update below on 16 Feb) will be published in early 2011, which represents a bit of slippage on the dates given earlier this year. The estimated date of the Public Inquiry is now being given as "summer 2011". Assuming the public inquiry passes the scheme, and subject to the availability of finance, the Minister is saying that work should begin in 2013. Due to the inevitable budget cuts in the coming months, the Minister for Finance has asked all other Ministers to suggest how their budgets could be cut. However the Minister for Regional Development is currently reluctant to suggest places were cuts could be made in his department, which makes it impossible to assess whether or not the 2013 date is realistic. Hopefully the situation will become clearer in the near future once firm decisions have been made. A number of "Health Impact Assessment" workshops were held in late September, and details can be found on the Roads Service web site. It's not immediately clear from the material on the web site what material impact this will have on the scheme.

18 Aug 2010: In a briefing to Derry City Council in July, Roads Service have said that work on this scheme is still expected to begin in "early 2013". However, we should not rely too much on this since the important budget decisions due to be taken in the coming months are likely to impact on roads.

16 Feb 2010: According to the Minister in the Assembly on 8 Feb 2010, design work is continuing and Roads Service hope to publish the draft Direction Order (basically the legal document giving permission to build a new main road) and the draft Vesting Order (the legal document needed to buy the land to build the road) "before the end of of 2010". The cost was re-stated, and has not changed, at £320m-£390m.

18 Jan 2010: The terminus of the new road at the Derry end will require changes to the A2 Clooney Road, mainly involving improving the alignment and standard, and removing one roundabout. A public exhibition of what is proposed will take place at The North West Teachers Centre, 24 Temple Road, Strathfoyle on Tuesday 19th January 5pm-9pm and Wednesday 20th January 1pm-9pm. I would encourage all those with an interest in the scheme to turn up as this is one of the main ways that the public can engage with the planners.

7 Jan 2010: According to a Written Answer in the Assembly in late December 2009, the current estimate of the cost of this scheme has risen to "£320m to £390m" which is a further increase on the "£320m" estimated in December 2008.

6 May 2009: The Minister announced the preferred route today. The new road will be built to dual-two lane standard, with 1 metre hard strips and no central reserve crossings. Starting at a new roundabout east of Dungiven, it will bypass Dungiven to the south before following an offline route for the first 10km. It will then join the existing A6 where it will be an online upgrade past Claudy until close to Drumahoe. It then heads cross country again to the north to join the existing A2 road at a new roundabout at Gransha. This is quite far north, so we could expect a large percentage of motorists will elect to leave the road at Drumahoe and use the existing A6 past Altnagelvin rather than go all the way up to Gransha. All seven intermediate junctions will be grade separated - six with a "compact" design and one (Drumahoe) with a larger layout. There may also be a westbound left-in/left-out junction at Burntollet, but the Road Service map is not clear enough to determine if this is true. I have put an approximate version of the route onto a Google Maps overlay, seen by clicking here. The press are reporting that construction will start in 2012 and last until 2016, but this is not stated in the Roads Service material. The official position late last year was construction commencing in 2013 subject to the availability of funding.

27 April 2009: Roads Service have said that the preferred route will be announced in early May, and details will be on display to the public at the following locations and dates:

  • 6 & 7 May 2009: Dungiven Community Hall, Chapel Road, Dungiven, 1pm to 9pm
  • 12 & 13 May 2009: YMCA Centre, 51 Glenshane Road, Drumahoe, 1pm to 9pm

All those with an interest in the scheme should be urged to turn up, as this is one of the key meetings to have your questions answered and raise any concerns. Representatives from Roads Service and the design company will be there.

16 Dec 2008: According to a Stormont Assembly written answer last week, the estimated cost of the scheme has now risen to £320m. It confirms that the preferred route is due to be announced in the Spring of 2009 and again tentatively suggests commencement may be around 2012/13.

10 Dec 2008: Roads Service published a 4-page leaflet on the scheme last month. It does not contain any new information, but confirms the timescale previously announced and provides a useful summary of the scheme.

21 Oct 2008: According to an Assembly written answer from 17 October, the scheme is still on schedule for commencement "during the 2012/13 financial year". The answer also states that the Dungiven Bypass portion of the scheme will take about 18 months to complete. There have been hints that this part of the scheme may progress early on in the scheme to ensure that it is open as soon as possible.

15 Jun 2008: According to this press release, the cost of the project has risen to £300m (up from £250m estimated in 2005). It also revealed that the preferred route is due to be announced in the summer of 2009 and that "over 100 people" are involved in the route development in one form or another. The press release has also said that Roads Service are now investigating how to provide a link from the A6 at Drumahoe to the A5 on the south side of the city. Such a link would almost certainly follow a new offline route. It is unclear if this link would be part of this scheme, or be a separate project.

24 May 2008: Roads Service are holding a series of public exhibitions between 20 and 28 May. They are using these to reveal the five chosen route corridors. Interestingly, some of these stray OUTSIDE the route corridor announced last year and thus there is now an "expanded" route corridor. At the Derry end it now looks almost certain that the road will tie in to the existing A2 between Caw and Maydown rather than the Crescent Link itself. At the Dungiven end two new routes for the bypass of the town are being considered, after complaints about the current route that will sever a GAA training ground. One of these passes further to the south, beyond the river, while the other passes to the north of the town. All the documents made available on the days are also online here, including more detailed versions of the above maps.

28 Apr 2008: The publication in April 2008 of the "Investment Delivery Plan for Roads" document has allayed fears that the  scheme will be delayed, since it includes this scheme in the "Preparation pool" which contains schemes anticipated to begin within 5 years, ie by 2013.

8 Mar 2008: According to Roads Service, ground surveys on the chosen route corridor are underway. This will inform the decision on a preferred route within this corridor. Roads Service still have the scheme in their "preparation pool" (construction anticipated within 5 years or so) but with the recent announcements by Conor Murphy (see previous updates) it's still unclear what the timescale is.

5 Feb 2008: Conor Murphy has again denied that there is any slippage in the timetable for the project. He said that "it is not correct to state that there has been slippage on the A6 Derry to Dungiven project. Indeed in July 2007 I announced the appointment of consultants to examine options to enable the selection of a preferred route by spring 2009". There is no doubt that this is true, but it only refers to the first element of the project. The "slippage" being noted is in the timescale for completion of the project as a whole. When first announced,Roads Service were saying that the scheme would be delivered within the timetable of the Regional Strategic Transport Plan which ran from 2005-2015. Now, they are saying that it's going to be delivered within the timetable of the Investment Strategy 2008-2018. While it's only a time period, it still has the potential to delay the project by up to three years.

30 Dec 2007: Conor Murphy responded to the media reports last week by assuring business leaders that the scheme has NOT been cancelled and will proceed. However, while reassuring, his statement does seem to be a disguised attempt to sneak a revised timescale through. When the scheme was first announced in 2005, it was stated that it would be built within the timescale of the Regional Strategic Transportation Network Transport Plan 2015, ie by 2015. However in this week's statement, Conor Murphy now says that it will be built within the timescale of the draft Investment Strategy 2008-2018, ie by 2018. This subtle change means that the project could potentially be delayed by up to three years. This would seem inevitable give the level of financial committment required for the A5 dualling scheme.

24 Dec 2007: As has been noted by the media, this scheme is mysteriously missing from the Draft Investment Strategy 2008-2018 which was published in October. This Strategy (admittedly a draft) outlines the targets of spending of £3bn on roads over the next ten years. Under its list of "key milestones" it lists the A4 dualling scheme (Dungannon to Ballygawley), completion of the A1 dualling, completion of the M1, M2 and Westlink upgrades, the recently announced A5 dualling scheme (Londonderry to Aughnacloy) and the A8 dualling scheme (to Larne). However there is no mention of the A6 dualling scheme. According to Derry Chamber of Commerce, the DRD has said that the A6 scheme may be put on hold or delayed. This is speculation, but it is worth noting that the shortfall required in order to undertake the A5 dualling scheme is £260m. This is almost the same amount as the cost of this scheme. So it is possible that the Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has decided to take the money from this scheme and use it to fund the A5 scheme instead. If so, and it is only guesswork, then it is likely to prompt a lot of debate on the subject.

Background to Scheme

The Regional Strategic Transport Plan, published in 2004, explained why it was thought that further dualling of the 40km of the A6 beyond Castledawson could not go ahead before 2015:

B3.3.41 When the funding envisaged by RTS is extended to 2015, there would be £529.4m available for Strategic Road Improvements in the RSTN TP period. However, this is fully taken up by the high priority SRIs proposed across the RSTN, including the £171.9m envisaged for SRI schemes on routes serving the North-West. Therefore, within the funding assumptions of this Plan, it would not be realistic to expect that further dualling of the A6 could be undertaken within the Plan period (apart from the Randalstown to Castledawson section already proposed). B3.3.42 However, further dualling of the A6 will be required outside the RSTN Plan period, in order to develop and upgrade the link between Northern Ireland’s two largest cities by 2025. Therefore, during the Plan period it will be necessary to plan the route of a dual carriageway between Castledawson and Derry, by undertaking a route selection study. This will inform the decision regarding the acquisition of land and route protection lines, e.g. for the Dungiven Bypass.

This lack of funding was rectified suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly in December 2005 by the announcement of sufficient funding for the Dungiven to Derry section. Prophetically, the RSTN did comment that "It is... likely that future dualling in the 2015 to 2025 period will commence at the Londonderry end of the route." This is because traffic levels are highest at the Toome and Derry ends of the A6, and lowest at the Glenshane Pass and because of the difficult terrain crossing the Sperrins. Traffic figures collected in 2004 showed the following daily traffic at various points on the A6:

  • Toome - 21160 vehicles
  • Castledawson - 14880 vehicles
  • Ranaghan (Glenshane Pass) - 10470 vehicles
  • Western edge of Dungiven - 13820 vehicles
  • Altnagelvin, Londonderry - 12930 vehicles
  • Rossdowney, Londonderry - 26930 vehicles

Thanks to Diarmaid Elder for the traffic information on this page.

Photos

A typical view of the A6 road in its current form, here seen near Dungiven. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Dungiven town centre is the biggest bottleneck on the route, and will get a bypass. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Lots more photos of the road are available on the Roads Service web site - see link at the top of this page.