A6 Dualling - Randalstown (M22) to Castledawson


Construction scheme (completed)
Graham/Farrans Joint Venture
To upgrade the A6 from Randalstown to Toome, and from Toome to Castledawson to dual-carriageway (partly online, mostly offline). Existing Toome Bypass to remain as-is.
Total Length

6.8km (4.3 miles) M22 to Toome plus

5.4km (3.4 miles) Toome to Castledawson


Scheme announced as part of Regional Transport Plan 16 September 2003

A6 Toome Bypass (dual-carriageway) completed - March 2004

Preferred route announced 28 September 2005

Public inquiry held - November 2007; Departmental response to inquiry inspector's report - Autumn 2009

Revised junction designs completed - Jan 2011

Scheme put on hold until at least 2015 - 13 Jan 2011 / confirmed 14 Feb 2012
(changed from "2011" as of Dec 2010, "2011/12" as of Nov 09, "2011" as of Aug 08, and "late 2008" as of Apr 07)

Supplementary Public Inquiry for Bellshill/Annaghmore junction junction held - 13 Feb 2012
Inquiry Report rejects proposals for Bellshill/Annaghmore junction - 23 Jan 2013

Second revised Bellshill/Annaghmore junction designs submitted for planning approval - 5 Jul 2013
Planning granted for revised Bellshill/Annaghmore junction design - 3 Dec 2014
Construction tender process began - 28 Jul 2014; Tender awarded - 1 May 2015
Public Inquiry into Vesting Order for Bellshill/Annaghmore junction - 29 Sep 2015
Scheme given funding - 17 Dec 2015

Legal challenge received to Toome-Castledawson section - 27 Sep 2016; dismissed 27 Mar 2017

Appeal to legal challenge - 15 Aug 2017; rejected 19 Sep 2017
Construction was to begin - October 2016 (as of Aug 2016) - but delayed due to legal challenge

Construction to take three and a half years (as of Jan 2016; changed from 24 months as of June 2010)

Work on Randalstown to Toome and Moyola to Castledawson roundabout began - May 2017
Randalstown-Toome opened 9.30pm on 4 August 2019
Toome-Castledawson opened (with one lane each way and 40mph speed limit) 6.00am on 23 November 2020
Whole scheme officially opened 28 May 2021 (a few months behind schedule due to COVID)
Cones/speed limit removed from Toome-Castledawson stretch 29 May 2021


£189m (as of Dec 2019)
(changed from £160m as of Aug 2016; £150m as of June 2016; £120-140m as of Nov 2014; £100-120m as of Apr 2010; £100m as of Dec 2008; revised from £70m as of 2006, itself revised from £34m)

Photos / Map
See below for photos and maps.
See Also

M22 on this site

A6 Toome Bypass on this site

A31 Magherafelt Bypass on this site (also ends at Castledawson roundabout)

Official web site on scheme - TransportNI
Contractor's web site on scheme - lots of updates and photos

Click here to jump straight down to scheme updates.

The A6 is single-carriageway from the end of the M22 at Randalstown, to Derry. The most notorious bottleneck, the village of Toome, received a dual-carriageway bypass in 2004. However the roads on each side are still single-carriageway. The purpose of this scheme is to dual approximately 12km of the A6 from the M22 to the start of the Toome Bypass, and from the end of the Toome Bypass as far as Castledawson. In keeping with recent schemes, the two new stretches of dual-carriageway will be of a high quality with flyover junctions and no breaks in the central reservation. Traffic levels on the route vary from 12,000 vehicles per day at Castledawson to 17,500 per day at the M22 end.

The existing Toome Bypass was to have been upgraded as part of the scheme with both roundabouts removed, and the Hillhead Road T-junction west of Toome would have been closed. As of late 2010 this decision has been reversed, so both roundabouts will remain (Roguery Road will be enlarged) although the Hillhead Road T-junction will still be closed. This is unfortunate and short-sighted as it means what is otherwise a continuous free-flowing road with grade separated junctions from Belfast to Castledawson will have two roundabouts in the middle.

Route Map

The map below was released to the press by Roads Service in September 2005. It shows the western part of the scheme at the top, and the eastern portion at the bottom. The Toome Bypass has been added in black. Individual junctions are not shown.

The Bellshill Road / Annaghmore Road Controversy

The design of the scheme has been generally accepted with the exception of the connection between Bellshill Road and Annaghmore Road in Castledawson, which has (as of Jan 2013) twice been rejected at a Public Inquiry and is now being reconsidered a third time. The controversy has related to (a) the way in which locals will access the upgraded A6 from these two roads and (b) the impact of new connector roads on local residential and agricultural property. The maps below show the evolution of the proposals.

ABOVE: Original design proposed but rejected at 2007 Public Inquiry.

ABOVE: Revised design submitted at 2012 Public Inquiry but again rejected.
(You can see this map in more detail at the end of this document.)

ABOVE: Inspector's recommended design as of 2013.
(You can see this map in more detail at the end of this document.)

ABOVE: Roads Service's revised design as of June 2013, which is their refinement of the inspector's suggested design (compare to previous map). You can see this map in more detail here.

Background to the Scheme

The original grand motorway plan of 1964 would have seen the M22 extend from Antrim past Toome and terminating at Castledawson. (Londonderry traffic would have followed the M2 as far as Ballymoney and then taken the proposed M23 to the city). When this scheme got abandoned in 1975, the M22 had not even made it as far as Toome and it left the single-carriageway A6 as the most direct route to Londonderry. It has been in this state for the intervening 30 years with the narrow and twisty section from the M22 to Toome one of the poorest standard trunk roads in Northern Ireland.

Strip Junction Map

See also route map above. This is a strip map of the design that is being built as of 2018. The existing Toome Bypass, which will remain in situ, is highlighted in yellow.


Begins as M22 motorway

2+2 lanes



A6 Moneynick Road
(to Randalstown)

B183 Moneynick Road

(former A6)


7.0 km / 4.4 miles - 2+2 lanes


B183 Moneynick Road

(former A6)

 B18 Moneynick

 (into Toome)

1.2 km / 0.7 miles - 2+2 lanes


 Roguery Road

 The Toome Bridge


Roguery Road
(into Toome)

River Bann

0.7 km / 0.4 miles - 2+2 lanes

Local farm access

(eastbound only)

Old Bann Road

(eastbound only)

0.3 km / 0.2 miles - 2+2 lanes

Local farm access

(eastbound only)


1.4 km / 0.9 miles - 2+2 lanes

Boilas Lane 

 B18 Hillhead Road

 Creagh Business Park

 B18 Hillhead Road

1.6 km / 1.0 miles - 2+2 lanes
Deerpark Road 
 Deerpark Road
1.3 km / 0.8 miles - 2+2 lanes

Hillhead Road

(into Castledawson)

 B18 Hillhead Road

 (current A6)

2.0 km / 1.2 miles - 2+2 lanes



Linking to

Bellshill Road

Local access

Link to Annaghmore Road

1.2 km / 0.7 miles - 2+2 lanes

A54 Magherafelt Rd

(into Castledawson)

 A31 Magherafelt Road

 (to Magherafelt)



Terminates as A6 towards Londonderry


2 Jun 2021: This scheme reached its climax on Friday, 28 May, when the DFI Minister officially opened the scheme. The following day (Saturday 29 May) all cones and speed restrictions on the Toome to Castledawson stretch of the road were removed and the public - who had started to get quite antsy about the cones - finally got to use the road at its design speed of 70 mph. The news was mostly reported in the media on the Monday (31 May). For those who are wondering, joint contractor Farrans helpfully tweeted that there were a total of 3,500 cones on the scheme! It is worth pausing to reflect on the hurdles this scheme has overcome to reach this moment. First conceived as part of the M22 motorway in 1964, it was a casualty of the cancellation of the motorway programme under Direct Rule in 1972. Eventually, in 2004, the bottleneck of Toome village was bypassed by a dual-carriageway featuring three roundabouts. The year before, a plan to dual the rest of the route from Randalstown to Castledawson had been announced, but it required no less than three public inquiries - in 2007, 2012 and 2015 - to finalise the design. It then faced two legal challenges in 2016 and 2017, both of which DFI won but which delayed work by 7 months. Work finally began in May 2017, but it has taken four years to complete the project, in large part because of a sensitive stretch that passed near Lough Beg and where no major work could take place for half of each year. The final 15 months of the project coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed work, though not by as much as it could have. Congratulations to Graham and Farrans, the lead contractors, consultants AECOM, designers ARUP and Roughan & O’Donovan and the various sub-contractors for a very well-executed project. The only thing that tarnishes the scheme was DFI's decision to retain the Drumderg and Roguery Road roundabouts on the Toome Bypass, against the Public Inquiry inspector's recommendation, a decision that has created two unnecessary "Hillsborough roundabout" situations. This is a discussion that will undoubtedly have to be had in the years to come, but this week is the time to celebrate what has been achieved. Some final photos are included below including three aerial photos by Aerial Vision NI taken just three days before the cones were removed.

View east towards Toome showing the existing Toome bypass on the left, with the tie-in to the new dual-carriageway at the bottom right. Note the new route of Hillhead Road, running alongside the new road. It previously joined the Toome Bypass at a T-junction that has now been removed and grassed over. 26 May 2021 [Aerial Vision NI]

View west from the same location as the previous shot, this shows the new A6 running to the upper right as well as The Creagh grade-separated junction which is connected by a short link road to the existing Creagh roundabout. The 2004 Toome Bypass terminated at the Creagh Roundabout, but this short stretch of dual-carriageway has now been "singled" again, with the former eastbound carriageway now grassed over and apparent in the wide verge running along Hillhead Road on the left of this shot. 26 May 2021 [Aerial Vision NI]

Moving about half a kilometre east from the previous shot, this is the new A6 running beside Aughrim Hill (area of bare soil). Aughrim Hill was used as a "borrow pit" for rock, but has now been landscaped back to its original shape and will revert to agricultural use. The two bridges and one underpass visible here are accommodation roads (for local access), connected to quite a network of new connecting lanes. 26 May 2021 [Aerial Vision NI]

DFI Minister Nichola Mallon (front left) with Elsie McNaughton of Woods Primary School, Magherafelt (who cut the ribbon) and her brothers Ed & Albie, plus representatives of the contractors and the local council, at the official opening ceremony at Castledawson roundabout on 28 May 2021. [image DFI Roads]

15 Apr 2021: This is a brief update to note that an aerial movie was published to YouTube by the contractor three weeks ago, showing the whole stretch from Castledawson roundabout to Toome. The movie shows that the road is essentially completed, with all the major tying-in works around Toome apparently now done. Motorists are understandably getting very frustrated that the road is still coned down to one lane, with a 40 mph speed limit, almost five months after opening, especially when they can't see much work taking place. The TrafficWatchNI web site is currently saying that the restrictions will be lifted on Sunday, 25 April. This is quite possible, but it may be old information so don't treat it as definitive. Either way, I would expect the road to fully open very soon.

26 Feb 2021: The new road between Castledawson and Toome is still coned down to one lane each way, but it looks very close to completion now with little evidence of major work left to do on the road itself. Work still seems to be ongoing on the new section of local road (B18 Hillhead Road) that runs parallel to the new road and connects Toome to Castledawson. This road is still not open, due to tying-in works needed at the Toome end, but it looks close. Work is also ongoing to tidy up the road system around the Creagh Road/Hillhead Road junction near Castledawson, now that it is no longer part of the A6 and has become a local road. It is certain that there are still a lot of loose ends to be tied up on the project as a whole, eg landscaping works, lighting, signage etc, as well as removing works areas and restoring them to their original state. These works are likely to take into the late spring or even the summer. Nevertheless it is likely that all four lanes will be opened to traffic before too long, which would mark the completion of the project from the point of view of the traveling public. The pictures below were all taken by Matthew Cole about ten days ago – thank you.

Pic 1: Looking west along the "new" Hillhead Road, near Shivers Business Park at Toome, which runs parallel to the new dual-carriageway (beyond the wooden fence). The fence has probably been added to avoid drivers being disoriented by the headlights on the adjacent roads at night, which would appear to be on the "wrong" side of the road. [15 Feb 2021 - Matthew Cole]

Pic 2: Looking east along the "new" stretch of Hillhead Road at Toome, with Shivers Business Park ahead, on 15 Feb 2021. This is the site of the former T-junction onto the Toome Bypass that has now been removed. The road here is not yet completed – further tarmac is required in places and the road markings need added. The new A6 is beyond the soil to the left. [Matthew Cole]

Pic 3: View  north-west from The Creagh bridge on 16 Feb 2021, with a local accommodation bridge just ahead and Lough Neagh visible in the distance on the right. Views like this show how massive the direction signage is on these roads. [Matthew Cole]

Pic 4: View south-west from the road network at The Creagh junction, towards the existing Creagh roundabout on the former A6. When this picture was taken the latter was closed for resurfacing, but is now open again. [16 Feb 2021 - Matthew Cole]

Pic 5: The westbound on/offslip pair at The Creagh junction, as seen from the loop on the northern approach to the flyover on 16 Feb 2021. You can also see the eastbound offslip on the extreme left. Both offslips are so tight that they sport their own "20 mph" warning signs! [Matthew Cole]

Pic 6: The new turning facility on Boylies Lane on 16 Feb 2021, showing the new Creagh flyover ahead, and extensive tree planting on the new embankment. Out of view to the right is a new ramp leading up to the bridge to preserve pedestrian access across the new A6. This is the same view before work began – you can see the same fence on the left. [Matthew Cole]

22 Jan 2021: With the scheme not far off completion, there are fewer "major" changes taking place along the scheme. That does not mean work is not taking place, and a great deal of ancillary works are still underway along the scheme. The contractor did put a new aerial video on YouTube two weeks ago. The video shows the stretch traveling east from Castledawson Roundabout to the start of the Toome Bypass. The road is still coned down to one lane each way with a 40mph speed limit. This is likely to remain in place for some weeks yet to allow the contractor safe access for ongoing works along the whole stretch. All works are due to finish by mid 2021. Some notable locations visible in the video are:

  • 0:00 Start at Castledawson roundabout. 
  • 0:24 Former Annaghmore Road junction, now sealed up.
  • 0:40 Bellshill Road grade-separated junction.
  • 0:51 River Moyola bridges (original 1990 bridge on left, new bridge on right).
  • 1:02 Point where new road diverges from the original Castledawson Bypass. The new road has now been realigned to flow directly onto Brough Road.
  • 1:05 Site of the temporary access point that was in use until November has been sealed up.
  • 1:13 Hillhead Road grade-separated junction, east of Castledawson. It's hard to tell from this high up, but it looks as if the central barrier here may have now been completed.
  • 1:48 Deerpark Road grade-separated junction. Note how the carriageways diverge on the curves to provide forward sight lines.
  • 2:07 Accommodation overbridge in proximity to Lough Beg, with Aughrim Hill on the right now restored to its original contours.
  • 2:21 Accommodation overbridge.
  • 2:30 The Creagh grade-separated junction.
  • 2:43 Road rejoins the line of the original A6, which has been shifted over slightly onto the new link road visible to the right of the dual-carriageway.
  • 2:49 High-spec left-in/left-out accommodation access on the left. All traffic is shifted onto the eastbound carriageway here while tie-in works are completed ahead.
  • 2:55 Works underway to tie-in the Hillhead Road (upper right) to the link road running beside the new dual-carriageway; and also to tie-in the westbound Toome Bypass to the new dual-carriageway. The temporary roundabout that was here has now been removed.
  • 3:03 Work on the westbound carriageway still underway here. This is actually the original 17-year-old Toome Bypass. It looks as if the road is being re-graded in some way to facilitate the tie-in. End of scheme.

22 Dec 2020: In a report to Derry and Strabane District Council two weeks ago, DFI confirmed that the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed completion slightly, from "early 2021 to mid-2021". Meanwhile, the last grade-separated junction on the scheme, Deerpark Road, opened to traffic two weeks ago. Much of the new stretch can be seen in this amazing drone footage, taken about two weeks ago. Ongoing road closures are happening in and around the scheme, including on the Toome Bypass every weekend for the next month to continue the works at the point where the new scheme ends. Work is also underway to close up the temporary access from the A6 to Broagh Road at Castledawson, which will instead be connected to the old A6 here. I'd expect to see various works – such as landscaping, safety barrier and light installation – ongoing until mid 2021. There is still no word as to when the new road will fully open (two lanes each way) but it does not seem to be imminent.

29 Nov 2020: The last stretch of new road, the stretch from Toome to Castledawson did indeed open to traffic on Monday 23 November, although the eastbound carriageway appears to have been opened slightly earlier, on the day before. The opening generated a lot of positive comment on social media from travellers who have been looking forward to this moment. Damian McGeady posted a short clip travelling east on the stretch passing Hillhead Road, Castledawson. The section was also covered in an article in New Civil Engineer, which focuses in particular on the challenge of the adjacent swan habitat and the resultant legal case. Graham Engineering, one of the lead contractor, also posted an aerial movie of the stretch taken shortly before it opened. The Infrastructure Minister was also pictured at the site. The road will remain reduced to 40mph with one lane only open each way for some time, currently estimated to be until the spring. Well done to the contractors and all those involved on a superb piece of work.

15 Nov 2020: A quick update to report the exciting news that the last stretch of new road, the stretch from Toome to Castledawson, will open to traffic (with one lane each way) at 6am on Monday 23 November 2020! The junctions at The Creagh and Hillhead Road Castledawson will open on the same date, though Deerpark Road junction will remain closed until 7 December. The stretch will have a temporary 40mph speed limit, but this will be a big change for motorists. With the whole scheme due to be finished by the spring of 2021, we are truly on the final straight.

16 Oct 2020: In this update we have a range of aerial and ground-level photos taken over the past month to share with grateful thanks to Aerial Vision NI, Chris Carter and Arthur Ming. We also have another aerial movie to share, with thanks to the prolific aerial photographer Benbradagh. So first I am going to share the movie, which is dated 26 September 2020, for which include a commentary below. Then, after that, you can see 12 photos with further information in the captions.

  • 00:00 Starting on the western end of the existing Toome Bypass, where the dual-carriageway is coned down to one lane each way.
  • 00:23 Alignment of reconstructed section of dual-carriageway very evident. The roundabout visible here is for temporary access to Hillhead Road, Toome. However this junction will eventually be closed and replaced by a new link road running beside the dual-carriageway to the Creagh junction. All traffic is currently using this new link road.
  • 01:01 New dual-carriageway swings offline to the right (north) here. Work seems well advanced with some surfacing laid.
  • 01:30 The new Creagh junction looking very advanced with sliproads completed and work apparently focusing on final surfacing and street furniture.
  • 02:05 Agricultural accommodation bridge, which required large approach embankments on this flat terrain.
  • 02:50 Passing close to Lough Beg, this is another accommodation bridge linking to a whole network of new laneways.
  • 03:20 Future layby visible on right-hand (Belfast-bound) carriageway.
  • 03:40 Deerpark Road junction. Deerpark Road is currently closed to traffic to allow the completion of the westbound sliproads visible on the lower left. Work here is less advanced than at The Creagh.
  • 04:20 This stretch is almost completed with blacktop in place. Safety barriers still need to be fitted.
  • 04:50 Hillhead Road (Castledawson) junction. The road over the bridge is completed and in use, and the junction below is very advanced with most blacktop in place and just the safety fencing still to be installed. Video does a nice pirouette of the junction before continuing.
  • 06:05 New road re-joins the line of the old A6, with traffic re-joining here. It would not take much work to close off this access point and divert traffic onto the new road. The old road will be diverted to join Brough Road, as can be seen here.
  • 06:20 Traffic is using the Castledawson Bypass stretch, but with only one lane open in each direction. The odd temporary junction, such as visible in the foreground, is still in place.
  • 06:30 The pair of Moyola river bridges – the original 1990 bridge on the right, and the new bridge on the left.
  • 06:45 Bellshill Road junction, now completed and (apart from a few cones) in full use.
  • 07:15 Annaghmore Road now closed off on both sides of the new road. The new road here is completed, just coned down to one lane each way pending the completion of the previous stretch.
  • 08:00 Terminus of the scheme at Castledawson roundabout. Video does a tour of the roundabout, including the two new footbridges, before continuing west along the single-carriageway A6 for a short distance.

And now for the photographs. These are arranged in order starting at the eastern (Toome) end and working west towards Castledawson roundabout. Thanks again to the wonderful photographers.

Pic 1: View east towards the existing Toome Bypass on 16 Sep 2020, with the Toome Bridge visible on the left and Lough Neagh on the right. In the foreground is the start of the new stretch of dual-carriageway. All traffic, on the right, is on a new link road which will allow the existing junction into Toome to be closed up. It will link instead to the roundabout at The Creagh. [Aerial Vision NI]

Pic 2: Closeup of part of pic 1, showing the current arrangement at the existing Hillhead Road (Toome) T-junction on the Toome Bypass. It has temporarily been laid out as a roundabout, but within the next few months will be closed completely. The red lines show how the Hillhead Road will be diverted onto the new link road to The Creagh. Although there was already a dual-carriageway here, it has been realigned slightly to tie in with the new road, hence the work evident. [Aerial Vision NI]

Pic 3: Same location as pic 1, but turning 180° and looking east, this is the new Creagh grade-separated junction close to completion on 16 Sep 2020. You can see the new dual-carriageway departing from the line of the old A6. The stretch of the old A6 had been a dual-carriageway as far as the roundabout, but has now been "singled"! You can make out the former eastbound carriageway in the gap between the road and the trees. The road over The Creagh flyover is open to traffic for local access only. [Aerial Vision NI]

Pic 4: View south-east (towards Toome) from The Creagh flyover on 1 Oct 2020, showing the blacktop mostly in place, the drainage ditches completed, overhead lighting in place and work underway to complete the central safety barrier. [Arthur Ming]

Pic 5:  View north-west (towards Castledawson) from The Creagh flyover on 1 Oct 2020, again showing work underway on the central barrier and also on landscaping works. The bridge ahead is a farm accommodation overbridge. [Arthur Ming]

Pic 6: View north-west along the new A6 from high above The Creagh junction on 16 Sep 2020. The bridge in the foreground is the same farm accommodation bridge seen in pic 5. The large borrow pit that was dug in Aughrim Hill (middle distance) has now been filled in and the landscape is being restored to its former appearance. Blacktop seems to have been laid along most of this stretch. [Aerial Vision NI]

Pic 7: View west along the new A6 from adjacent to Lough Beg (off frame to the right) on 16 Sep 2020. The complex series of laneways in the foreground is a network of concrete agricultural access roads along with an overbridge. The links are ultimately connected to the Deerpark Road junction, visible in the distance. [Aerial Vision NI]

Pic 8: Deerpark Road junction as seen looking west on 16 Sep 2020. This road is currently closed to traffic so that the road can be realigned over the bridge. Work on the eastbound sliproad loop is well advanced, but work on the westbound loop (to the left here) has only recently been able to begin after the old Deerpark Road was closed. [Aerial Vision NI]

Pic 9: Finally, moving to the Hillhead Road (Castledawson) junction, this is the view east (towards Toome) from the bridge on 10 Oct 2020. The road surface here is well advanced, but work on the central safety barrier has yet to take place. On the left is the exit/entry point of the eastbound sliproad pair. LED street lighting is also in place. The bridge itself, on which the photographer is standing, is completed and in use by local traffic. [Chris Carter]

Pic 10: Telephoto shot of the same view as pic 9 on 10 Oct 2020, showing red textured surfacing being installed in the central reservation as well as a brand new green distance sign listing (I think) Randalstown, Belfast and Toome as destinations. [Chris Carter]

Pic 11: This is the view west from the bridge at the Hillhead Road (Castledawson) junction on 10 Oct 2020, showing a similar state of affairs to the view east. The cones in the distance are the point where traffic currently joins the new road. The sign on the right foreground is presumably the diverge sign for this junction and seems to feature passively-safe posts (designed to disintegrate if struck by a vehicle). [Chris Carter]

Pic 12: View south-west towards the westbound offslip/onslip pair at Hillhead Road (Castledawson) junction on 10 Oct 2020. Various final touches have been completed including LED street lighting, two-way warning signs, planting of trees, installation of safety fencing and landscaping with grass. It will not take much to complete this junction. [Chris Carter]

11 Sep 2020: The scheme is really now starting to move towards its final phase, having been underway for 3 years and 4 months. Completion is due in "early 2021", so we could say sometime in the next six months. With the eastern half of the scheme (Randalstown to Toome) having been completed in 2019, the focus during 2020 has been on the western half (Toome to Castledawson). Of this second stretch, the western park (Hillhead Road to Castledawson Roundabout) is now completed, albeit coned down to one lane each way. That just leaves the stretch from Toome to Hillhead Road, and the three grade-separated junctions on the stretch, to be completed and that is therefore where all work is currently focused. Last month the contractor put up an aerial movie of the stretch, beginning at Castledawson and running to Toome which lets us glean what still had to be done at that point. The movie was put up on 12 August, though I suspect it was actually taken sometime around May or June. In the movie you can see:

  • 0:00 Starting at Castledawson roundabout, you can see the completed section which includes Bellshill Road grade-separated junction (0:18) which is completed and open to traffic.
  • 0:30 All traffic currently leaves the route of the new junction here, just before Hillhead Road junction but the tie-in to the new stretch of road is very nearly completed. It will not take much to close this up and put all traffic onto the new road when the time comes.
  • 0:35 The Hillhead Road grade-separated junction (serving Castledawson east) is advancing well with work now at the stage of completing the sliproads and the new road beneath. Since this video was taken, traffic has started using the bridge.
  • The next stretch of road, from Hillhead Road to Deerpark Road is very advanced. Not much more work is required along here. Tarmac has been laid since the video was taken, as shown in the photo below.
  • 0:51 Deerpark Road bridge where work is underway in earnest to tie in the new bridge to the local road network. This has resulted in a four-month closure that has been in place from the end of June and will be lifted around Hallowe'en.
  • 0:55 The next stretch of road is the bit that runs close to Lough Beg, and is off-limits to major works between October and March due to overwintering swans. Most of the contractor's efforts are now focused on this stretch, where works are underway to complete this stretch of road and the two accommodation overbridges that cross it. It is possible that this stretch could be largely completed by the time of the swan closure.
  • 1:12 The Creagh grade-separated junction. Some local traffic is already using this bridge and again it will not take much more time to see this junction completed.
  • 1:15 This final stretch connects the new road to the existing Toome Bypass. Works to tie the two together are now well-underway.

No word has been given on when this stretch of the dual-carriageway will open to traffic. If the stretch near Lough Beg is largely completed before the swan season, then we could conceivably see this final part of the road open to traffic sometime in the late autumn or winter. However that's just my speculation, so we shall have to wait and see! The whole scheme is due to be completed by early 2021, but the final works tend to be odds and ends like fencing and landscaping which can be carried out after the road has been opened to traffic. It has been a long three years so far, but the end is finally in sight. Finally one photo for you:

View east long the future eastbound carriageway of the A6 approaching Deerpark Road junction two months ago, on 18 July 2020. This shows that the base course of tarmac had already been laid here by that date. Also a lovely brand-spanking-new direction sign, though I guess we'll have to accept the right-angled T-junction signs that are used for compact grade-separated junctions rather than the Y-shaped diverge signs you get on larger junctions. The yellow numbering on the "straight ahead" "Toome" destination on this sign implies that the stretch of downgraded A6 between Toome and Castledawson will become part of the B182, which puzzles me, given that the existing road through Toome is the B18 whereas the B182 is Deerpark Road to Bellaghy. B18 would seem to make more sense. We'll have to await more clarification on this point. [Seamus Graffin]

8 Jul 2020: As the COVID-19 restrictions eased during June, work seems to once again be proceeding apace on this scheme. WithRandalstown to Toome completed, and the Castledawson Bypass largely completed (but coned down to one lane each way), all efforts now are focused on the offline section between Toome and Castledawson. This stretch features three grade-separated (flyover) junctions at Hillhead Road (Castledawson), Deerpark Road and The Creagh (Toome) as well as the dual-carriageway itself between them. Starting at The Creagh, the bridge itself seems to be completed and will come into use for local traffic in about two weeks' time. This is to allow the closure of a local road (Boylies/Boilas Lane) that crosses the site adjacent to the junction. The first two pictures below were taken at this junction by a contributor who prefers to remain anonymous (thank you!). At Deerpark Road, the flyover itself is essentially completed. Deerpark Road, which currently runs adjacent to the bridge, was closed to traffic on 29 June and will remain closed for 16 weeks. This is to allow Deerpark Road to be diverted over the new bridge and to facilitate the construction of the two pairs of looped sliproads. Finally, at Hillhead Road (Castledawson) the new bridge was opened to traffic at 6am on 29 June. All traffic heading into Castledawson from the A6 now uses the bridge, though of course the two sets of sliproads are not in use as the dual-carriageway beneath the bridge is still under construction. Picture 3 shows the bridge on opening day. Pictures 4 and 5 below show the view from the bridge. Finally, the YouTube user Benbradagh has put up an amazing drone movie of this entire stretch (along with some suitably epic music!). With thanks to them. I have included below a commentary on the video. You may wish to open the movie in a separate window to avail of this. The photos are below the commentary. Thank you to everyone who has sent me updates, photos and for taking the movie. You are all amazing.

  • 0:00 Video begins just over the existing A6 Toome Bypass west of the village. This is where the new dual-carriageway will swing away from the existing road. Note how the two carriageways are slightly separated from each other (splayed) as they round this curve.
  • 0:20 Approaching The Creagh grade-separated junction. The bridge here is completed and the two pairs of sliproads are well-advanced. None of the roads here are open to traffic, but its expected to open to local traffic during the week of 20 July. A local road (Boylies/Boiles Lane) runs left-right just beyond it. Note also the flood attenuation pond - this is designed to store water during heavy rain so that it can be released slowly, thus not overwhelming local watercourses.
  • 0:40 Crossing Boylies Lane. This part of the road will be closed up once the new bridge opens.
  • 1:05 Accommodation bridge to maintain access for landowners, complete with guard rails.
  • 1:35 This stretch of the new road is more advanced with the road base laid, and drainage (the white lines) also in place. Note how the drainage channels are in pairs, once for each carriageway, and on curves are always on the inside of the curve to reflect the camber of the road. Thus the channels switch sides when the curve switches direction.
  • 1:45 Another accommodation bridge, with a complex set of parallel access lanes under construction. Lough Beg close by, just off frame to the right. The huge borrow pit in Aughrim Hill has now been filled in, restoring the original contours of the hill.
  • 2:20 Lay-by on the eastbound carriageway.
  • 2:40 Approaching Deerpark Road junction. At this point in time Deerpark Road was still open, but has since been closed to allow it to be switched onto the new bridge. Note the site of the westbound offslip/onslip on the left here - work on this ramp can't begin until Deerpark Road is closed. Another flood attenuation pond on the right.
  • 3:00 Eastbound offslip/onslip at Deerpark Road much more advanced.
  • 3:10 We have signage!!
  • 3:45 Straight section between Deerpark Road and Hillhead Road look ready for blacktop and construction of the central reservation. Posts for more signage, probably the advanced direction sign for the Hillhead Road junction ahead.
  • 4:30 Approaching Hillhead Road junction, Castledawson. A lot of earthworks evident here as the road crosses a sequence of embankment/cutting/embankment.
  • 4:50 Temporary route of Hillhead Road was straight across the site here, but it has recently been closed and the bridge opened. Work has now got underway on the eastbound offslip/onslip on the right. The truncated section of Hillhead Road on the left will be stopped up adjacent to the white building. Camera does a nice 360° tour of the site which makes this clearer.
  • 6:05 The westbound offslip/onslip pair, on the left here, are much more advanced.
  • 6:25 Approaching the point where the new road rejoins the existing Castledawson Bypass, which has itself been dualled. You can see where existing traffic is being diverted off the road.
  • 6:40 The existing Castledawson Bypass is being re-routed to join seamlessly onto Brough Road - the line is clear in this view. Also visible is the new Brough Road footbridge.
  • 7:00 Temporary T-junction serving Brough Road. This will be removed when the road is completed.
  • 7:10 Layby, possibly for a bus stop, on the left.
  • 7:25 Pair of bridges carrying the dual-carriageway over the Moyola River. The bridge on the left is brand new. The bridge on the right dates to the construction of the original Castledawson Bypass in 1990.
  • 7:35 Flood attenuation pond.
  • 7:55 The Bellshill Road/Annaghmore Road junction, open to traffic (though the onslips are operating as T-junctions for the time being). This junction created huge controversy, being discussed at three separate public inquiries. It also comes with a considerable length of new local roads on either side, including the new roundabout visible on the left.
  • 8:20 Crossing the site of the original Bellshill Road staggered T-junction, now removed. The road here is completed, but only open to one lane of traffic in each direction.
  • 9:05 Crossing Annaghmore Road which has now been stopped up on both sides of the dual-carriageway. Here you can see its historic line (straight across) as well as the 1990 diversion on the left to turn it into a pair of staggered T-junctions rather than a crossroads. New accommodation laneway, visible by its shiny new concrete surface, on the left ahead.
  • 9:10 New lay-by on the westbound carriageway.
  • 9:30 Road here completed, and just awaiting opening.
  • 10:00 Rumble strips to warn drivers that they're approaching Castledawson roundabout.
  • 10:20 Aerial pirouette of Castledawson Roundabout and its new footbridges.

Pic 1: View east (towards Toome) along the future A6 on 5 July 2020 from The Creagh overbridge. The two pairs of sliproads can be seen taking shape to the left and right, with street lighting columns in place on the right. Compare to the photo in the update on 25 May (further down) to see progress in the past 6 weeks. [Anonymous contributor]

Pic 2: View north-west (towards Castledawson) along the future A6 on 5 July 2020 from The Creagh overbridge. The road crossing the site in the foreground is Bolies Lane, which will be closed in two weeks to be removed. All the local traffic from this road will be diverted over the new overbridge. [Anonymous contributor]

Pic 3: The new Hillhead Road overbridge a few hours after opening to traffic on 29 June 2020. This view is looking south-east, i.e. away from Castledawson. There are hundreds of metres of safety fencing in this shot, covering every part of the road, probably due to the presence of the embankment on which the road has been built. [Seamus Graffin]

Pic 4: View east from Hillhead Road overbridge on 5 July 2020 showing the new dual-carriageway taking shape with the base layers in place and drainage going in. On the left is the eastbound offslip/onslip pair. Compare to update below for 21 April to see how this site has developed in the last two months, and how the 'temporary' route of Hillhead Road has now disappeared. [Anonymous contributor]

Pic 5: View south-west from Hillhead Road overbridge on 5 July 2020 showing the new dual-carriageway well advanced with blacktop in place ahead, as well as direction signage. It's hard to tell from here, but the signage appears to utilise 'collapsible' posts, a more recent innovation to reduce the severity of a crash should a vehicle strike the sign. On the left is the westbound offslip/onslip pair. The drainage channel at the bottom of the frame, just right of centre, appears to be at an angle because it is - it's the start of the eastbound offslip. Note also the accommodation lane on the right, bright white with its fresh concrete surface. [Anonymous contributor]

25 May 2020: Work has been continuing on the scheme during April and May, albeit with some delays due to COVID-19 restrictions. At the western end, more work has been taking place on the Castledawson Bypass, which is still reduced to one lane each way. Works are evident between Bellshill Road overbridge and between Broagh Road and the Hillhead Road bridge (on the eastern side of Castledawson) where the new dual-carriageway heads away from the route of the current A6. However, work to tie these two section together is ongoing with one layer of tarmac visible eastbound heading away from the current A6 towards Hillhead Road. Minor works also seem to have been taking place on the eastbound sliproads at Bellshill Road. Meanwhile, at Deerpark Road traffic has yet to be diverted over the new bridge, and so far no tarmac seems to have been laid across it. There is evidence, however, of tarmac being laid nearby on the dual-carriageway itself as shown in pic 1 below. Work is also continuing along the stretch close to Lough Beg, as shown in pic 2 below, with the hardcore base of the road now in place on at least part of it. DFI have admitted that this whole stretch, which is due to be completed by spring 2021, may be delayed due to COVID-19. On 21 May a spokesperson said "The [offline] section from the Broagh [Castledawson] to Toome is not as advanced, with significant works still to do. It had been planned that the scheme would be complete in early 2021, but the coronavirus may influence this negatively". At the eastern end of the scheme, approaching the tie-in to the existing Toome Bypass, there is evidence of ongoing work but progress to date seems to be limited to earthworks and drainage works, with no sign of the base layers of the road itself as yet (see pics 3 and 4 below). Finally, you might be interested in this drone footage of the completed Castledawson roundabout with its two new footbridges. With thanks to John Goddard and Seamus Graffin for these photos and to Fred Fisher for his observations.

Pic 1: Lorries probably containing asphalt heading east onto the section of new dual-carriageway near Lough Beg (from Deerpark Road to Hillhead Road) on 18 May 2020 [John Goddard].

Pic 2: View south-east along the stretch of new dual-carriageway that passes close to Lough Beg, between The Creagh and Deerpark Road, on 30 April 2020 with Deerpark Road behind the camera and The Creagh bridge visible in the far distance ahead. The pillars in the foreground are for an agricultural accommodation bridge close to Aughrim Hill (off frame to the right), while the next bridge ahead is another agricultural accommodation bridge. [Seamus Graffin]

Pic 3: View north-west from the flyover at the future Creagh grade-separated junction near Toome on 30 April 2020, looking towards Deerpark Road. The bridge visible ahead is the same agricultural accommodation bridge visible in the distance in pic 2. Work on the road bed itself is still at the earthworks stage. The road in the foreground is an existing public road that remains open for now, but will be closed when the junction opens. The red-and-white barrels mark the location of overhead wires for the safety of site staff. [Seamus Graffin]

Pic 4: Same location as pic 3, this is the view south-east from the flyover at the future Creagh grade-separated junction on 30 April 2020, looking towards the tie-in with the existing Toome Bypass. As previously, work here is not as advanced as in other places, but there is evidence of drainage works in the distance. The stretches of earth going to the left and right just ahead are the future on/off-slip pairs, one for each carriageway. You can just about see the future kerbline for the westbound offslip opposite the JCB. The two carriageways will diverge slightly going round this corner, perhaps to provide forward sightlines, with an extra-wide central reservation. [Seamus Graffin]

21 Apr 2020: Since the last update the contractor has confirmed that work on the scheme has been scaled back due to the Coronavirus epidemic. Hillhead Road in Castledawson is currently closed to allow Hillhead Road to be diverted up and over the new flyover. This work was due to be completed on 6 April, but now seems to have ground to a halt with the foundation of the road in place over the bridge, but no blacktop as yet. The two pictures below were taken by Seamus Graffin from this as-yet-unopened bridge on 16 April and show the site as it looked then. These show good progress on the new dual-carriageway, but not much activity evident. The contractor has said that due to coronavirus "it is not possible to state when the overbridges at Hillhead Road and Deerpark Road, nor the four lanes from Castledawson Roundabout to Brough [Road] will open". Hopefully the contractor will be able to get up and running again as soon as it is safe to do so. It's possible this might lead to some slippage in the timeframe for completion, which is currently planned for "early 2021".

View east along the future dual-carriageway (towards Toome) from Hillhead Road overbridge on 16 April 2020. The 'temporary' route of Hillhead Road, that has been in use for the past year or so, can be seen running left-right across the site ahead. Once the bridge is open the eastbound off/onslip pair will join the new road on the left foreground here. In the distance you can see the stretch of dual-carriageway towards Deerpark Road taking shape with the (white) drainage channels in place and hardcore being laid. [Seamus Graffin]

View east along the future dual-carriageway (towards Castledawson roundabout) from Hillhead Road overbridge on 16 April 2020, showing much more progress on this part of the scheme. The westbound off/onslip pair can be seen nearing completion in the left foreground here, while a drainage channel in the central reservation, and one on the inside of the bend on the right can be seen. The hardcore base of the road is also in place, with just blacktop needed. [Seamus Graffin]

10 Apr 2020: In recent weeks it has been very difficult to find out what is happening on this scheme. This might be because of Covid-19 and the need to reduce nonessential staff, or it may be to do with the scheme scaling back as it enters its final year. No movies have appeared on YouTube for three months. We can say that the Hillhead Road in Castledawson does not see to be open yet, despite this being the plan before the pandemic. It was closed to allow Hillhead Road to be realigned over the new flyover over the future dual-carriageway. The stretch that runs close to Lough Beg (between The Creagh and Deerpark Road) was off limits to major works due to overwintering swans but that restriction has now ended so work can resume here too. It is likely that we will see work on the dual-carriageway along this stretch advance during the summer months. Finally, the two new footbridges and connecting foot/cycleway traversing Castledawson roundabout came into use at the end of March after more than a year of work. See photos below. The bridge will make it much easier for pedestrians and cyclists to traverse this busy junction safely.

Pic 1: Castledawson Roundabout seen from the air c31 March 2020, with the foot/cycleway and its two box-girder arch bridges now completed. The future A6 dual-carriageway can be seen at the bottom right, while the recently-completed A31 Magherafelt Bypass is visible at the bottom left. The pathway features a landscaped vantage point at the centre, and will presumably be planted with vegetation in due course. [DFI Roads image]

Pic 2: View of one of the two new footbridges, seen looking north east from the centre of the roundabout c31 March 2020. [DFI Roads image]

27 Feb 2020: The scheme is now entering its final phase, with two and a half years of work now under the belt and completion due this time next year. As the active area of the scheme diminishes, the contractor is scaling back the number of staff on the project which means that there are fewer interesting things being posted online. The easternmost half of the scheme, Randalstown to Toome, is largely completed, though final works are continuing along it. Meanwhile, at the western end the stretch from Castledawson Roundabout to Brough Road, which is an upgrade of the original Castledawson Bypass, is largely completed with traffic using both carriageways, but currently coned down to one lane in each direction. You can see a video of this stretch as it was about 6 weeks ago in this YouTube video. Pic 1 is a screenshot from a DFI webcam taken during the snow on 24 February showing traffic on this stretch. Pics 2 and 3 are also views of this stretch. This online stretch ends close to Brough Road. Brough Road South currently joins the A6 at a T-junction, but this week work has been underway to realign it onto the current A6 to the east, what will be a local road when the dual-carriageway is completed. This can be visualised by looking at how it looked in January in pic 4 below. You can also see the new footbridge that was installed recently. The offline stretch from Brough Road to Toome is the least developed, as shown in pic 5. There are three grade-separated junctions on this stretch - at Hillhead Road, Deerpark Road and The Creagh. All three seem to have their bridge decks in place and works are underway in each case to realign roads over/under them. At Hillhead Road this has meant a full closure of Hillhead Road from mid January until late March. Something similar will happen at Deerpark Road during March. Major works on the stretch close to Lough Beg (between The Creagh and Deerpark Road) are currently paused due to overwintering swans but will resume next month. This stretch includes two accommodation overbridges, which seem to be completed though not tied in to the nearby road network. A huge borrow pit that was dug in the flank of Aughrim Hill now seems to have been filled in again and will be restored back to its previous appearance in due course. I would expect to see this stretch largely completed by the autumn (and perhaps even opened in the autumn?) but with finishing works continuing into 2021.

Pic 1 – Still from DFI Traffic Camera on 24 Feb 2020 showing the (snowy) new Castledawson Bypass with one lane open each way.

Pic 2 – Completed A6 Castledawson Bypass as it was on 10 Jan 2020 in this computer-generated aerial image. Also shows Annaghmore Road North (left) and South (right) now permanently closed off. On the right you can see both the original (pre-1990) line of Annaghmore Road, and the diversion that was built when the original Castledawson Bypass opened in 1990 to create a pair of staggered T-junctions. All traffic now uses a new link road to join at Bellshill Road up ahead; see pic 3 below. [Still from this YouTube]

Pic 3 – the new Bellshill Road grade-separated junction open and in use on 10 Jan 2020 (though with the merges set up as Give Ways rather than onslips for now). On the left foreground you can see the original (1990) T-junction with Bellshill Road North, now permanently sealed off. The original T-junction of Bellshill Road South on the right was buried under the new junction. [Still from this YouTube]

Pic 4 – View east along the new dual-carriageway at Brough Road on 10 January 2020. Works took place during February to realign Brough Road South (on the right) onto the current A6 (a future local road) going straight ahead. For now access is still possible via the temporary link visible in the foreground. From this point to Toome the new road runs offline. [Still from this YouTube]

Pic 5 – View east of a section of the new A6 between Hillhead Road and Deerpark Road (visible in the distance) as it was on 10 January 2020. The formation (i.e., the foundation) of the new road is in place here, as is some of the drainage but the road itself still has to be constructed. [Still from this YouTube]

For updates prior to February 2020 please see the archive.