A6 Dualling - Randalstown (M22) to Castledawson


Construction scheme (under construction)
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 due to open "early 2021" (as of May 2017)


£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 

 B? Hillhead Road

 Creagh Business Park

 B? 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)

 B? 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


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]

21 Dec 2019: The contractor has not been putting up videos on YouTube much recently, perhaps because the videos were more for keeping track of excavations than for public interest, but it does mean I have had a bit more of a struggle to keep track of what's going on. This update is pieced together from various Tweets as well as this update posted on the contractor's web site earlier in December. Firstly, although the Randalstown to Toome section is essentially complete, the footprint of the former road at the Randalstown West junction has now become a borrow pit - so it's being excavated down to quite a depth - see pic 1 below. Secondly, work continues to progress at the three new grade-separated junctions on the offline stretch between Toome and Castledawson. The bridge at The Creagh is well advanced, with the bridge deck under construction. This bridge is not on any existing road, so will probably not open until the new dual-carriageway opens. The nearby Deerpark Road flyover, however, replaces the existing Deerpark Road which currently runs beside it. Deerpark Road will therefore need to be closed for 8 weeks during the spring of 2020 to allow the road to be realigned over the new bridge. Something similar will happen at the Hillhead Road junction (eastern access to Castledawson) which will be closed from 21 January until late March to allow the road to be realigned over the new flyover there. No major work is currently taking place on the stretch of new road between The Creagh and Deerpark Road, due to environmental restrictions close to Lough Beg, but work continues between Deerpark Road and Hillhead Road (see pic 2 below) where the formation of the new road is becoming much clearer. On the Castledawson Bypass, all traffic switched to the future eastbound carriageway at the beginning of December (a week later than planned; see pic 3 below) to allow further work on the westbound carriageway. At the same time, the new Bellshill Road/Annaghmore Road grade-separated junction opened to traffic, albeit with Give Way arrangements rather than onslips "for ten months" (pic 4 below). This mention of "ten months" by the contractor implies that it will be at least the autumn of 2020 before all four lanes of the Castledawson Bypass open to traffic. In other news, the A6 scheme won a Green Apple Environmental Award from The Green Organisation - the scheme got Bronze award in the Building and Construction category. Contratulations! Finally, the NI Audit Office has included this scheme in a recent report into major capital projects and gives the estimated total cost of the scheme as £189m, well up on the £160m being quoted in 2016. The NIAO estimates that the unsuccessful legal challenge to the scheme added approximately £11m to the cost of the scheme and a year to the construction timescale. Anyway, Happy Christmas, and here are the pictures:

Pic 1: Aerial view of the completed Randalstown West junction in mid December 2019, showing the line of the former road on the right now being used as a borrow pit. The jew junction is already maturing with vegetation covering the new banks. [Still from this YouTube movie]

Pic 2: Computer-generated aerial view of the new dual-carriageway under construction between Castledawson and Toome in mid December 2019. This is the view east from close to the Hillhead Road junction, with the Deerpark Road junction off frame ahead. The large area of exposed earth on the left is another borrow pit, which appears to now be being filled in again. [Still from this YouTube movie]

Pic 3: View of the terminus of the scheme at the Castledawson Roundabout during the switchover from the westbound to the eastbound carriageway (the more distant of the two here) at the start of December. [Graham Farrans image from here]

Pic 4: View east along the new A6 Castledawson Bypass from the new Bellshill Road flyover, showing the eastbound offslip now fully open, and the onslip partly open. All traffic is currently using the future eastbound carriageway. Note the nice V-shaped gully on the left edge of the road. Note also the concrete accommodation lane visible in the top left. [Graham Farrans image from here]

9 Nov 2019: With work on the Randalstown to Toome section now essentially complete, attention is focused on the more complex stretch from Toome to Castledawson. From 28 October traffic on the Castledawson Bypass was switched from the future westbound carriageway onto the future eastbound carriageway once again to facilitate final surfacing works. Work has also been ongoing throughout October to complete the Annaghmore Road/Bellshill Road junction and from the same date (28 Oct) local traffic was able to use the new flyover but without access onto the A6. Annaghmore Road South was permanently stopped up at the same time, while the Bellshill Road North will be closed permanently from next month. At some point soon Annaghmore Road North will presumably also be closed, with access via the new junction. The contractor has said that the plan is to open the stretch from Hillhead Road junction (near the new footbridge at Brough Road) to Castledawson Roundabout fully prior to the rest of the road, but that this won't be for "some time" yet.

Major works are now suspended for the winter on the stretch of the site passing close to Lough Beg due to the presence of overwintering swans, but work can continue on the rest of the scheme, especially the offline stretch from Hillhead Road in Toome to Deerpark Road. The bridge beams for the Hillhead Road bridge, the last bridge to get its beams, were lifted into place during the week of 7 October - see photo below. The contractor has not posted any aerial footage on YouTube for a month now, which is disappointing. However, Google Earth have updated their imagery of the area, though it's only visible in "historical mode" on Google Earth. You can now see the site as it was on 26 August this year. I'm not posting any screenshots, as that's over two month ago and hence out of date, but do check it out if you're interested. In other random bits of news - (1) The scheme has apparently won an "environmental award", with DFI to receive it at a ceremony later in November. (2) The scheme will appear in the next season of the engineering series Ulster Giants. Filming took place in October.

The whole scheme is due to be completed by early 2021, so a little under a year and a half to go.

A member of camera crew filming a beam lift (possibly Hillhead Road, Castledawson) in October 2019 for the next season of Ulster Giants [DFI image].

21 Sep 2019: The "official" opening of the new section of dual-carriageway from Randalstown to Toome, which opened to traffic on 4 August, took place on 12 September. Unusually, because there is currently no Executive, it was opened not by the DFI Minister but by Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary of DFI, plus two local schoolchildren (see pic below). Two children (Juliet Murray and Grace O'Botle) wrote poems about the road - the first poems I have seen specifically written about a new road - which you can read at the bottom of this page (along with pictures and quotes from various people involved in the scheme). Thank you to them! The opening coincided with the re-opening of the new Randalstown West grade-separated junction at the western end of the M22 where the new A6 begins. Disappointingly, the junction seems to have lost its junction number - it was M22 junction "3" when it was a T-junction, but seems to have no number now that it has a flyover and sliproads!

There was a bit of negative publicity after the opening due to the appearance of long traffic jams westbound at Drumderg roundabout in Toome. Some concluded on the basis of this that the road should not have been built. Two points on this. Firstly, the decision to leave Drumderg roundabout and Roguery Road roundabout in-situ on the Toome Bypass was a poor one, and one which I suspect DFI already know was a mistake. The decision was taken ten years ago when policy was different, but with all the legal controversy around the road during the planning stages, DFI will not have wanted to revisit the design. The decision will continue to haunt us, I suspect, for the next ten to twenty years as this has created a new "Hillsborough Roundabout" situation. Nevertheless, I am also told that much of the congestion we saw at Toome was caused by the ongoing roadworks on the Castledawson end of the scheme. With local road closures, many people are going though Toome village and using the back roads to Magherafelt. This traffic can't all squeeze through Toome, so is backing up onto the Drumderg roundabout, interfering with Derry-bound traffic. This problem should mitigate once the remainder of the scheme is open. All of this, of course, ignores the fact that the new road is substantially safer than the old Moneynick Road - the fatality rate on A-class dual-carriageways is approximately half that of A-class single-carriageways.

All attention now focuses on the Castledawson to Toome stretch which is due to open in about 18 months' time. As always, the best way to get an overall view of the scheme is to watch the latest aerial movie. I've provided a brief commentary below, where numbers refer to the minutes and seconds in the video.

0:00 Starting at Castledawson roundabout, where the footpath connecting the two footbridges is well developed.
0:02 Start of Castledawson Bypass. All traffic is using the future westbound carriageway, which is already completed. Work on the future eastbound carriageway is well advanced.
0:12 New agricultural accommodation lane visible on right. These generally have concrete surfaces.
0:20 Future westbound layby.
0:24 Annaghmore Road, which is to be permanently closed after completion.
0:39 Future Annaghmore/Bellshill Road grade-separated junction looking close to completion with road surfacing being laid.
0:52 Moyola River bridges - original 1992 bridge on the left, new bridge on the right.
1:03 Point where the new road diverges from the current A6. New footbridge visible.
1:16 Future Hillhead Road grade-separated junction with bridge abutments and central pier under construction, but with the bridge beams yet to be placed.
1:33 Foundation of new road now in place on this cross-country stretch.
1:51 Deerpark Road junction with the approach embankments in place, plus the curved embankment (lower left) for the east-facing sliproads. The existing Deerpark Road runs beyond the bridge. It needs to be diverted up onto the bridge before the west-facing sliproads can be built (on the site at upper right).
2:00 This stretch runs close to Lough Beg and will be off-limits to the contractor from October due to overwintering swans. The foundation of the new road are well-advanced here.
2:11 New farm accommodation bridge in place, but as yet without approach embankments. The huge borrow pit that was dug in Aughrim Hill (on the right) has now been largely filled in again. It will be restored to its former appearance once work is completed.
2:20 Farm accommodation underpass.
2:25 Farm accommodation overbridge with approach embankments underway.
2:34 The Creagh grade-separated junction. The bridge beams were lifted into place a couple of weeks ago. A short length of new road will connect it to the existing Creagh roundabout, off frame to the right.
2:45 Road re-joins existing Toome Bypass. The existing Toome Bypass from here to Creagh Roundabout will be reduced from a dual-carriageway to a single-carriageway.
2:53 New SuDS detention pond visible at lower left - this stores water during a heavy rain event and releases it slowly, preventing flash flooding of local watercourses.
2:55 Hillhead Road T-junction, at Toome. Access to Toome here will be closed off, and instead Toome will be connected directly to The Creagh roundabout via a new single-carriageway, which all traffic is currently using, visible on the right here.

Finally, there is always space for photos, so here are some!

Official opening of the A6 between Randalstown and Toome on 12 Sep 2019, taken from Randalstown West bridge. [DFI Roads image]

Beam lift at The Creagh grade-separated junction on 6 Sep 2019 (with current A6 and Creagh roundabout visible beyond). [DFI]

Aerial view of the first beam being lifted into place at The Creagh on 6 Sep 2019. Note the falsework (in red) already attached to the site of the beam - this is a walkway for workers to use once the beams are in place. [DFI]

Another view of the first beam being placed at The Creagh on 6 Sep 2019. The route of the future dual-carriageway towards Deerpark Road is visible going into the distance, with the wetlands around Lough Beg beyond the fields on the right. [DFI]

View of the new Deerpark Road flyover, from the existing Deerpark Road, on 13 Aug 2019. The photographer is standing where there will eventually be a curved embankment to carry the west-facing sliproads. However, this cannot be started until Deerpark Road has been diverted up and over this new bridge. [Arthur Ming]

Computer-generated 3D aerial view of Castledawson roundabout as it was c19 Sep 2019, showing the two new bridges in place and the earthworks for the central sculpture and walkway in place. The new A6 is to the bottom, with the existing A6 towards Derry to the top right, and the new A31 Magherafelt Bypass to the left. [still from Graham/Farrans aerial movie]

16 Aug 2019: The first half of this scheme – the new section of dual-carriageway from Randalstown to Toome – opened to traffic slightly ahead of schedule, at 9.30pm on 4 August 2019. I missed it due to being on holiday, but here is a belated update focusing exclusively on this stretch though, of course, work will be ongoing between Toome and Castledawson until early 2021. The opening brings to a close a 47-year hiatus that had lasted since the M22 motorway scheme was cancelled in 1972 and will be a great relief to residents of the Moneynick Road and long-distance travellers alike. Well done to everyone at Graham/Farrans JV for a great piece of work. The road opened with both lanes and the maximum national speed limit (70 mph for most cars) along most of its length, only dropping to one lane and 50 mph at the eastern end where work is still taking place on the "Randalstown West" junction. This work means that eastbound traffic is currently unable to leave the A6 here, so for now non-motorway traffic is allowed to travel along the M22 as far as junction 2. Work at the Randalstown West junction is due to be completed by early September. Signage has also confirmed that the existing Moneynick Road, the former A6, has now become the B183. The best way to see the whole stretch, if you can't drive it of course, is via this computer-generated aerial movie created by the contractor on or after opening day which begins at Toome and ends at Randalstown West.

A number of observations can be made about the new Randalstown West junction, the point where the existing M22 joins the new A6 dual-carriageway. This location is shown in the first two photos below, before and after the new stretch opened. Firstly, the junction has been officially (i.e. on signs) named "Randalstown West". This is a change since at the time the M22 was opened in 1973, and for years after, Roads Service referred to the junction in literature by the name "Artresnahan", the name of the townland it is in. Secondly, the junction was identfied on signs as "junction 3" of the M22 right up until this scheme started, but the new signs that have appeared omit the junction number entirely. This is either a mistake, or suggests that the junction is no longer regarded as part of the M22, which brings me to the next point. Thirdly, the M22 "start of motorway" sign eastbound has been placed after the end of the onslip. This is a very odd place for a "start of motorway" sign, since it's more normal to place it at the last opportuntiy for non-motorway traffic to take an alternative route, since it is legal for non-motorway traffic to travel as far as this sign. It allows a scenario where (say) a horse-drawn vehicle could come onto the dual-carriageway eastbound and travel along it until coming to this sign, at which point they would be forced to come to a halt with no way to move forward or back unless a police officer came to direct them to pass the sign. It has been suggested that this may be due to DFI being unable to get a new motorway regulation approved without a Minister, but even that doesn't quite make sense since the new sign is much further east than the old one was. We shall have to wait and see how that one resolves itself. Fourthly, signage purists will note that the "start of motorway" sign is also in the wrong font – "Transport" when it should be "Motorway Permanent" (thank you to the eagle-eyed A42_Sparks for spotting that one). Fifthly, the "end of motorway" sign westbound has been placed at the 100 yard countdown marker before the Randalstown West offslip. Again this is very odd, since it would be more usual to place that sign at the top of the sliproad where it joins the all-purpose roundabout. Again, it might be to do with legal specifics so we shall have to wait and see if it stays in this unusual location.

Anyway, time for some photos. The first two are aerial shots of Randalstown West. The last three are taken from a DFI tweet, so if you want to see higher-resolution versions, click here. Also, the contractor has updated their web site with more specific traffic info and some more photos. Check it out! All eyes are now on Toome to Castledawson – lots still to be done.

View of the future "Randalstown West" junction where the M22 (to the bottom) meets the new dual-carriageway (top) a few days before the switchover, when all traffic was still being directed along Moneynick Road (upper right). [Graham Farrans image from here]

The same location seen on opening day, with the tie-in works completed and all traffic allowed to continue straight onto the new A6 (top) from the M22 (bottom left). Moneynick Road is now be accessed via the big loop to the right. Eastbound access is currently closed as the two sliproads are completed. [Graham Farrans; a still from this YouTube movie]

View east from Gallagh Road bridge of the completed dual-carriageway, along with a swanky new Type A layby on the right! One of the many concrete accommodation lanes that have been built is visible on the left. The embankments of the new road are covered with literally thousands of saplings – in ten years this scene is going to look very different. [DFI image from here]

View west from above Ballynafey Road overbridge, plus the realigned Ranaghan Road on the left. [DFI image from here]

View west of an extremely elegant accommodation overbridge near Derryhollagh. The slender bridge deck and interesting taper on the left give this bridge a very gentle persona - well done to whoever designed it. [DFI image from here]

23 Jul 2019: All eyes are now on the Randalstown to Toome stretch of this scheme (the other half being Toome to Castledawson) which is due to open to traffic within the next few weeks. Work on that stretch is currently focused on the final touches of laying blacktop and painting lines. Ahead of opening there are to be two public events this Friday, 26 July, where the public will be allowed to walk/run/cycle on the new dual-carriageway! Alas I can't make it due to work, but you can just turn up at the Park-and-Ride at Drumderg Roundabout (eastern end of the Toome Bypass). The 5 km Fun Run/Walk will commence at 4pm, while the 10 km time trial cycling event will start at 4.30pm. Proceeds will go to Moneynick and Duneane Primary Schools, with a suggested minimum donation of £5.

In other news, the digital aerial movies on the contractor's YouTube are still the best way to keep track of the project. This one shows the Castledawson to Toome stretch as it was last week. At the start of the video, the future eastbound carriageway is really taking shape (all traffic is using the future westbound carriageway, which is already complete). You can also see a nice, shiny new concrete agricultural access road on the right. At about 0:38 we cross Bellshill Road/Annaghmore Road flyover junction where the sliproads are taking shape, though more advanced on the south (right hand) side. At 0:56 we pass over the new footbridge at Brough Road, which is the point at which the new road swings left onto an offline route. We pass the Hillhead Road flyover junction at 1:10, where foundations for the bridge appear to be in place. After this, we can see earthworks underway on the stretch approaching the (entirely unnecessary - opinion!) Deerpark Road flyover junction which we pass at 1:40. The approach embankments to this flyover look almost completed. The road then goes onto a long, flat stretch close to Lough Beg. Work here seems to be finally underway in earnest, with what looks like geotextile matting being laid 1:48 as a foundation for the road. Two farm accommodation bridges are also underway (1:57 and 2:10), and the huge borrow pit that was dug here seems to be being filled in again (1:57; being filled with low-quality material from elsewhere on the site). The embankments for The Creagh flyover junction are completed with the bridge foundations going in, at 2:18. Finally, work on the new local road to carry Hillhead Road, Toome parallel to the new dual-carriageway is evident at 2:30 (the right-turn into Toome village will be closed up). The most recent movie of the Toome to Randalstown stretch is three weeks old, but here it is. See also the photos below.

Last month I got scolded by the contractor ;-) for speculating that the road would open on 22 July. Not having learned my lesson, I am going to do it again! The "tie-in" works referred to at that time have been moved to the weekend of Friday 2 August – Monday 5 August 2019, when the A6 will be fully closed "to facilitate tie-in works with the existing road network". To me this, does sound like the work to divert traffic onto the new dual-carriageway - perhaps with just one lane each way initially. I may be wrong, and neither DFI nor the contractor are (probably wisely) not being drawn on the matter, but that's my best forecast! EDIT 26 July – DFI today confirmed that they intend to open the Randalstown to Toome stretch on Monday 5 August.

Finally, the contractor Graham Farrans sent me some lovely photos of the Toome to Randalstown stretch four weeks ago which I never got a chance to put up at the time, but I am happy to share now. Thank you to them.

The eastern end of the scheme, this was the view from the end of the M22 towards the new road on 18 June 2019, with the existing A6 Moneynick Road heading off to the right. As you can see, it won't take much more to et traffic onto this. [Graham Farrans].

Blacktop being laid using a Northstone roller near Ballynafey Road bridge on 18 Jun 2019. If you are a civil engineering fan, this will be a very satisfying image to look at! [Graham Farrans].

Blacktop being laid on the new A6, as seen from Ballynafey Road overbridge on 18 Jun 2019. There are two drainage channels - one on the left, and one in the central reservation, reflecting the camber of the road on this gentle curve. Note how the leftmost drain switches to the right side as the curve changes direction ahead. [Graham Farrans].

View of the largely-completed and enlarged Drumderg Roundabout in Toome on 18 Jun 2019, with the existing Toome Bypass behind the camera to the right, and the new A6 dual-carriageway on the left ahead. [Graham Farrans].

26 Jun 2019: A quick update this time for two reasons. Firstly, to share some wonderful 360° drone photos taken of the scheme by the amazing John Toner a couple of weeks ago. He has put the images here and created a map here that shows their locations (note the map link doesn't work on mobile devices). Clicking on these will bring up a link to the 360° panoramas where you can hover over the new road and have a grandstand view. Thank you to John! Secondly, in my previous update below I speculated that the new stretch of dual-carriageway from Randalstown to Toome might be going to open on 22 July. The contractor has got in touch with me to say that, alas, that is not the case! However, I do think that the opening will probably take place sometime in late July or early August. No date has yet been announced so we shall have to wait and see.

13 Jun 2019: The scheme continues to progress. This week there have been a series of overnight closures on the west end of the Toome Bypass to facilitate the relocation of water pipes. The north end of Bellshill Road is also due to (finally) reopen next week, coinciding with the permanent closure of the north end of Annaghmore Road and the opening of the new Bellshill Northern Link Road which connects the two together. The layout around here was one of the biggest sticking points at the three (!) public inquiries, so it's good to see it finally built. Of more significance is the weekend closure of the main A6 between Randalstown and Toome from 10pm Friday 19 July - 6am Monday 22 July 2019. This is apparently to "facilitate tie-in works with the existing road network". To me this sounds suspiciously like the plan is to open the new stretch of dual-carriageway from Randalstown to Toome on 22 July. The timing fits with the progress on the ground, the use of the term 'tie-in works' fits, and the fact that during the following weeks the temporary roundabouts are to be removed from the Moneynick Road also makes sense. This is not official information, so I could be wrong, but it looks that way to me. Time will tell!

20 May 2019: The contractor is doing a good job keeping their site updated so rather than try to list everything that has happened recently I am going to highlight some key events and share some photographs. Lots of people seem to be very interested in this scheme, judging by the number of emails and photos I get sent - I appreciate them all, thank you, even if I can't share them all here! Firstly, on the offline stretch from Randalstown to Toome work is really now counting down towards the opening scheduled for the late summer (August?). Tarmac has already been laid along much of the stretch and more is going down every day. Work still to be done includes the addition of the central safety barrier and, where appropriate, side safety barriers. See below for some photos taken at the Ballynafey Road overbridge. The best way to get an overall view is to look at this computer-generated aerial movie from a week ago. Thousands of trees have been planted along the route, which will transform the road over the next decade. Secondly the offline stretch from Toome to Castledawson is less advanced but still progressing well. This movie begins near Hillhead Road, Castledawson and goes east passing over the new Deerpark Road bridge at 0:21. On the stretch near Lough Beg an agricultural overbridge is taking shape at 0:40, as well as a large borrow pit visible to the right, which will probably be filled in again at a later date. From here the video shows the embankment for the new road that has been left to settle for some months now, but work on a second agricultural overbridge appears to be underway at 0:54 before the video reaches the Creagh junction at 1:03 where work on this flyover is now clearly underway too. It is just under two years until this stretch is due to open, in early 2021. Finally, on the online stretch along the Castledawson Bypass work on the future westbound carriageway is complete with work on the eastbound carriageway now progressing well. The most recent video of this stretch is now three weeks old. A new footbridge at Brough Road is now in place and last weekend two new footbridges were craned into place over Castledawson Roundabout. I include a number of photographs below.

Pic 1: The completed (and open) Ballynafey Road bridge over the new A6 seen on 15 May 2019. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 2: Telephoto view west along the new A6 from Ballynafey Road bridge on 15 May 2019, showing tarmac being laid.The concrete channels are for drainage, used instead of metal grilles in the road surface. Some safety barrier is also visible, in this case protecting drops into culverts. [Wesley Johnston]

Pic 3: View east from Ballynafey Road bridge on 7 April 2019. Note the thousands of new trees that have been planted on the embankments. In ten years this will be like driving through an avenue of trees. [Chris Carter]

Pic 4: Deerpark Road flyover continues to make progress as seen on 4 April 2019. [Arthur Ming]

Pic 5: Aerial view of Castledawson Roundabout on 19 May 2019 after the two new footbridges had been installed. The new A6 is to the bottom right. [DFI image from Twitter]

Pic 6: Artists' impression of how the Castledawson roundabout will look after the new footbridges have been completed and landscaped. A piece of art will be installed as a centrepiece.

24 Mar 2019: Another update, this time firstly to draw attention to two aerial movies which between them show the entire stretch between Castledawson and Toome, including parts that haven't been seen in aerial movies in a while. This is the most challenging part of the scheme as it runs through some very boggy ground with several overbridges required. The first movie begins at Castledawson Roundabout where you can see progress on the two new footbridges that are being built here. With all traffic now using the future westbound carriageway, the old A6 has been excavated and the foundations of the future eastbound carriageway are taking shape. You can see interesting features including a layby and an agricultural accommodation laneway at 0:21. Bellshill Road flyover, well advanced but not yet open, is seen at 0:45. Jumping then to the second movie at the Moyola River Bridge we continue to the rather convoluted temporary road network where the future dual-carriageway diverges from the existing A6 at 0:20. We reach the future Hillhead Road junction at 0:45. The embankments are completed, and are probably now being left to settle for a few months before work begins on the bridge. Between here and the Deerpark Road junction at 1:30 is one of the least-developed stretches, where progress is largely limited to topsoil removal. This may well be one of the last sections to be built. Deerpark Road junction itself is progressing well with the bridge in place, but no sight as yet of the embankments on either side. The next stretch, from 1:40 to is the environmentally-limited section that runs close to Lough Beg. The whooper swan overwintering period is finally over so work has now resumed on this stretch, which includes topsoil stripping, a culvert at 1:50 and an accommodation overbridge at 2:10. The stretch from here to The Creagh junction appears to have been built up with an embankment. I'm not sure whether this is the actual road embankment, or whether it's a surcharge designed to compact and settle the ground below. The video reaches The Creagh junction at 2:40. This is similar to Hillhead Road junction, in that the embankments are completed, and are probably being left to settle. The future road re-joins the A6 near Toome at 3:00. The current right-turn into Toome on the Belfast-bound carriageway is being closed as part of the project, and the Hillhead Road is being diverted onto a new local road that you can see being built to the right of the main road at 3:10. A very interesting video.

Secondly, the contractor has put up a new update on their web site here which contains more details. I am not going to repet everything from there on this site, but it contains pictures and a movie of the Deerpark Road beam lift as well as ground-level photos of the offline section between Randalstown and Toome which is now due to open in "mid/late summer 2019". If the borrow pits are your thing – and let's face it, they're fascinating wee blighters! – there's also details of what's happening to those. There are some excellent photos in this update, so please pop over and have a look. We are now almost at the half way point of this four-year with scheme with almost two years under the belt and two more to go until the whole road is open to traffic.

6 Mar 2019: We are now on the countdown to the opening of the first part of this scheme, namely the offline stretch from the end of the M22 at Randalstown to Toome which is currently scheduled to open during the second half of July, ie just over four months from now. Exciting times! Work on the Randalstown West junction – where the M22 will join the new dual-carriageway – is progressing well, as can be seen in this aerial movie taken on Monday. Meanwhile, Arthur Ming has shared more photos of the Deerpark Road junction with its beams now in place, two of which I reproduce below - thank you Arthur. Work is now getting underway on the approach embankments for this bridge, as can be seen in this aerial movie, also taken on Monday.

Deerpark Road bridge sporting its ten brand new beams on 23 Feb 2019. [Arthur Ming]

Closeup of the central pillars of the Deerpark Road flyover, with five beams resting on it from the left, and five from the right. The structure bolted to the nearest beam is to faciliate construction workers and will eventually be removed. 23 Feb 2019. [Arthur Ming]

10 Feb 2019: A quick update to share two photos that were taken on 7 February by Arthur Ming, showing the work at Deerpark Road (on the offline stretch between Castledawson and Toome). Both views are looking west from the current Deerpark Road towards the two bridge abutments and one set of central pillars that will eventually carry the realigned Deerpark Road over the future dual-carriageway. The beams for this bridge are due to be lifted into place on 16/17 February, after which the bridge deck will be built. After that, presumably, work will take place to divert Deerpark Road over it to allow completion of the new road below. Thanks Arthur!

View west from Deerpark Road on 7 February 2019 showing work on the flyover that will eventually carry Deerpark Road over the new dual-carriageway. This is the same view before work began. [Arthur Ming]

Closeup of the northern bridge abutment at Deerpark Road taking shape. The beams are due to be lifted into place here on 16/17 February. [Arthur Ming]

6 Feb 2019: The contractor has put up a new video, dated yesterday, of the stretch from Toome to Randalstown, visible on YouTube. It shows this stretch very advanced, with tarmac in place now on long stretches, including much of the eastbound carriageway and now sizeable stretches of the westbound carriageway too. Most of the drainage also seems to be in place too, and hundreds of saplings appear to have been planted along embankments on the stretch too. Parts of the site are already starting to green over. Towards the end of the video you can see that the borrow pit at the Randalstown West junction is now being filled in. The borrow pit was used to extract high quality rock for construction, and is now being replaced with low quality earth. The aim is to achieve a cut/fill balance, minimising the amount of material that has to be disposed of off-site. We are anticipating the opening of this section by the summer. The contractor has also updated their own web site. I won't repeat everything here, but highlights include the beam lift at Deerpark Road (between Toome and Randalstown), now scheduled for the weeked of 16/17 February. You can see the three sets of supports in place in this video. Drumderg Roundabout is also to be realigned (for the umpteenth time) this coming weekend. Bellshill Road south of the new dual-carriageway is currently closed, and will remain so until late March. This will be followed by a full closure of Bellshill Road north of the new road from 25 February until early May. This is to allow the contractor to reconnect the local roads to the new grade-separated junction that's being built here.

16 Jan 2019: Work is now underway once again after the Christmas break, and there have been more developments. As per usual, this information is partly sourced from the contractor's own web site and partly from YouTube videos which I shall link to. Starting at the western end, Castledawson roundabout is currently down to one lane to faciliate the construction of two footbridges that will allow easier pedestrian access over this busy junction. On the Castledawson Bypass, all traffic has been using the future westbound carriageway for about six weeks and stretches of the old A6 have now been excavated for reconstruction, as seen in this YouTube video posted last week. The video shows lots of earthworks especially around Hillhead Road (visible at 1:10). Just prior to Hillhead Road (visible at 1:02) you can see how the existing A6 has been moved onto the route of the future dual-carriageway which curves off to the north (left) at this location. In Castledawson itself, the new link road that connects Annaghmore and Bellshill Roads is well advanced and traffic is due to be diverted onto it in late February. The video ends at the site of the future Deerpark Road junction (1:40) where the bridge beams are due to be lifted into place on 9/10 February. At Toome, the contractor intends to carry out "realignment" at Drumderg Roundabout on the weekend of 25-28 January. This *might* mean switching A6 traffic onto the new S-shaped section of road that will link the current A6 to the roundabout after the dual-carriageway opens. You can see the section of road I mean in this YouTube video (on the left at 00:02). It might also mean altering the layout of Drumderg roundabout. This video extends along the full length of the offline stretch to Randalstown. You can see that tarmac has now been laid on the future eastbound carriageway on about 75% of the route. The Toome-Randalstown stretch is due to open to traffic in "mid 2019" so not long to wait now. It will probably open with one lane each way initially, and then open fully in due course. The video ends at the new junction at Randalstown (at 2:57) where you can see the road that loops over the bridge to connect to the westbound carriageway taking shape.

3 Dec 2018: A major milestone was reached today with traffic using part of the new A6 for the first time this morning. Traffic travelling on the Castledawson Bypass for the 2.2km between the Moyola river bridge and Castledawson roundabout were switched onto the future westbound carriageway - as tweeted by DFI's permanent secretary earlier - and Bellshill Road was also reopened. Work will now begin on building the eastbound carriageway on the site of the old road (I say "old", but it was actually itself only opened in 1992!). Well done to the contractor for reaching this point. The contractor has put up an update with photos on their web site here - what follows is a few key points pulled out of that. Closer to Toome, work on the Deerpark Road grade-separated junction continues to progress with piling, bases and column works now complete. Work is currently focused on the bridge abutments are the beams are due to be lifted into place during January. Work is now also underway for the new pair of footbridges that are being added to Castledawson Roundabout. All of the above can be seen in this aerial movie, posted last week before the carriageway switchover, starting at Castledawson Roundabout and moving east along the Castledawson Bypass. Meanwhile, on the offline stretch between Toome and Randalstown work progresses steadily. The deck is due to be poured on what the contractor is calling "Pearsons Accommodation Bridge", though I'm not aware of any maps in the public domain that would allow us to identify where that bridge actually is, since Pearson is probably the name of the landowner. Two aerial movies of this stretch of the scheme were put online a week ago. This one shows the western 2km, starting at Toome and working east with the road foundation largely in place and drainage works evident. Towards the end you can see a future layby on the westbound carriagewway. This movie shows the easternmost 1.3 km of the same stretch, ending at the M22 at Randalstown. At the end of the movie you can see the "loop" that will allow westbound access to and from the new road taking shape.

11 Nov 2018: The dark evenings have really set in now, but work continues on this scheme which has now been underway for 18 months with just over two years to go until completion. Taking the scheme in three sections: At the western end of the scheme, work on the upgraded Castledawson Bypass (from the Castledawson roundabout to Hillhead Road) is very advanced, with the future westbound carriageway close to completion. All traffic will be switched from the current A6 to this new carriageway on the weekend of 30 November, so that the current road can be reconstructed to become the future eastbound carriageway. Progress is best seen via this computer-generated flythrough dating from four days ago which begins at Castledawson roundabout and works its way east. There is only one grade-separated junction on the Castledawson Bypass - at Bellshill Road/Annaghmore Road (at 0:38 in the video) and Bellshill Road is currently closed to facilitate its realignment to the the new link road that is being built as part of the junction. On the offline stretch between Hillhead Road and Toome progress varies. The first stretch, from Hillhead Road to to Deerpark Road, starts at 0:56 in the video and you can see that earthworks are underway on both grade-separated junctions, but not much work evident on the stretch between them. The next stretch, past Lough Beg and on to The Creagh (not shown in the video) has seen relatively little progress and in any case work here has been paused until the spring due to environmental restrictions. The final stretch, the long offline section from Toome to Randalstown, is looking very advanced indeed with both carriageways constructed and tarmac being laid on a long stretch in the middle of the section. This computer-generated flythrough shows progress at the Castledawson end two weeks ago, while this video shows progress at the Randalstown end. The pictures below were taken from Ballynafey Road bridge by Chris Carter about three weeks ago (apologies to Chris that I have only shared it today). It illustrates how well advanced this section was in late October. We are now only 8 or 9 months away from the opening of the Toome to Randalstown stretch (next summer) so that will be a very exciting time for travellers!

View east (towards Randalstown) along the future A6 dual-carriageway from the Ballynafey Road overbridge on 18 October 2018. [Chris Carter]

Same location as previous photograph, but looking west (towards Toome) showing work underway. The HGV on the extreme right is on the current road, the A6 Moneynick Road. 18 October 2018. [Chris Carter]

6 Oct 2018: The project continues to advance, with the opening of the new park-and-ride at Drumderg roundabout in Toome, and the accompanying footbridge, on 24 September as anticipated. The contractor has lost no time in ripping out the old park-and-ride, the site of which is needed for the enlarged roundabout. The enormous cutting at the end of the M22 is now essentially complete, so motorists can now see along the route that the future dual-carriageway will take from Randalstown (see photo 1 below). Progress on this stretch, which is almost entirely offline, can be seen in this computer-generated flythrough of the 1500 metres at the eastern end of the project. On the other side of Toome the offline stretch that passes close to Lough Beg, via Deerpark Road, is also advancing with substantial earthworks completed and the approach embankments for the Creagh junction and flyover now in place, as seen in this video. The same is the case further west where the new road rejoins the existing A6 near Castledawson, with the embankments for the Hillhead Road junction - though not the bridge structure - also in place. The Castledawson Bypass itself is the only stretch where the road is an online upgrade, and here work on the future westbound carriageway has advanced to the point that the final surface is being laid on the western part (photo 2 below). An aerial video of the Castledawson Bypass can be seen here, showing the progress on the future westbound carriageway. It will not be too long before traffic is transferred onto the new carriageway to allow the construction of the future eastbound carriageway. We are now less than a year away from the planned opening of the Randalstown to Toome stretch, though the more challenging Toome to Castledawson stretch is still about two and a half years away.

View east from M22 towards large
                          excavation in bank.

Photo 1: View west along the route of the future dual-carriageway from the end of the M22 at Randalstown on 27 Sep 2018. The current Moneynick Road is seen curving to the right. Until a few months ago there was a huge hill just ahead which has now been cut away (same view before work began) [Wesley Johnston].

Tarmac on future westbound carriageway

Photo 2: Tarmac in place on the future westbound carriageway of the A6 Castledawson Bypass on 27 Sep 2018. All traffic is likely to be soon switched onto it to allow work on the eastbound carriageway. [Wesley Johnston]

12 Aug 2018: The project progressed well during July. You can read the contractor’s latest update on their web site here. As before, I’m not going to repeat everything here so I encourage you to click that link to get a feel for what’s been happening and what will be happening in the coming weeks. The two most notable dates are the opening of the new link road at Randalstown West (end of the M22) which connects the dual-carriageway to the new flyover. It is due to open on 3 September. The relocated park-and-ride facility at Drumderg Roundabout in Toome is then due to open in “mid” September. One of the most obvious recent changes has been that the bank at the end of the M22 at Randalstown has finally been cut through, so drivers can now see right along the route of the future dual-carriageway as they join the existing Moneynick Road.

The amazing John Toner took a series of 360° panoramas at various sites along the new road on 25 July. (Although he sent them to me the following day I was busy attending the birth of NIRoads Junior #3 at the time and hence am only updating the site today!) He then took more at the end of the month. You can see them all by clicking this link. John has also created an interactive map that shows the location of each 3D panorama, available here. Thank you John - these pictures are amazing and give a real flavour for how things are progressing.

21 Jul 2018: A number of things to report. Firstly, construction on the scheme has now passed its first anniversary, which means that the eastern half (Randalstown to Toome is now over 50% complete) and we are now only a year from opening in "mid 2019". To celebrate, the contractor has put up an excellent first anniversary page that contains a summary of work to date, videos and an audio clip. There is no point in me trying to repeat it all here, so I suggest you pop over to the page and have a read! In terms of visible works, the beams for another bridge were craned into place last week - this was an accommodation bridge (a bridge that preserves access to private property) at "Dobbin's lane". The bridge consists of two spans (one per carriageway), each of which consists of two 66 tonne precast beams 29 metres long. Three of the photos below are of this lift, taken from a DFI tweet. In addition, the first overbridge to be opened to the public came into use on Monday 16 July - this was the Ballynafey Road bridge, which carries a local road over the new dual-carriageway between Randalstown and Toome. The scheme continues to make use of six huge "borrow pits", five of which are in use and the sixth (near Deerpark Road between Castledawson and Toome) is to come into operation by the end of the month. The contractor tries to keep a cut-fill balance, ie material excavated from one part of the site is used on other parts of the site so that very little material has to be disposed of off site. However the issue is that the material is not all of the same quality, ie not all of it is suitable for use in construction. Borrow pits allow good quality material to be excavated for the fills, and then poorer quality material from cuttings is put back into the borrow pits. When the scheme is completed the topsoil is restored and it looks as if the pit was never there (hence "borrow" pit). The last picture below was sent by a site visitor who prefers to remain anonymous - thank you - and shows the borrow pit near Bellshill Road. It's hard to get a sense of scale, but the pit looks to be around 30 metres deep, and that is a mature tree above. The contractor will certainly have benefitted from the fanstastic weather over the past two months. Major earthworks on part of the stretch between Toome and Deerpark Road will have to pause come October due to the presence of overwintering swans, but the contractor appears to have made good progress on this stretch. A reminder that the contractor puts up regular aerial videos here. If they seem obsessed with borrow pits it's because the videos (sadly!) aren't there for the benefit of infrastructure enthusiasts, but to allow the engineers to monitor the movement of material around the site.

Crane lifting a beam into place.
Crane lifts one of four beams into place for the "Dobbin's lane" accommodation overbridge c20 July 2018. [DFI image from here]

Dobbins lane bridge seen from the far
                          side with crane lifting.
Crane lifts one of four beams into place for the "Dobbin's lane" accommodation overbridge c20 July 2018. [DFI image from here]

Dobbins lane bridge from afar
View along the new A6 between Randalstown and Toome showing the carriageway foundation in place. The metal poles with yellow dots on top that run along the central reservation are used by computerised systems in the vehicles to check the level of the layers of material that are being laid to form the road surface. [DFI image from here]

The huge borrow pit at Bellshill Road seen in early July 2018. [Anonymous site contributor]

24 Jun 2018: The contractor (Graham & Farrans) and the Institution of Civil Engineers jointly held an open day on the site yesterday. Visitors were treated to a presentation about the scheme, a demo of a 3D VR headset that civil engineers use, and then a hard-hat visit to the Bellshill Road flyover construction site on the Castledawson Bypass. So thank you very much to them. I've included some shots below. The scheme is progressing on schedule. The eastern part of the scheme (Randalstown to Toome) should open to traffic just over a year from now, in "late summer 2019". On the Castledawson Bypass, which is being widened, the westbound carriageway is under construction and it's likely that all traffic will be switched onto it later in the summer to allow the current road to be reconstructed to form the new eastbound carriageway. Opening of the western part of the scheme (Toome to Castledawson), which has more challenges (softer land, more environmental restrictions, being partly online) will come either at the end of 2020 or the start of 2021. You can see a computer-generated aerial movie of the stretch as it was last week. The contractor is putting these movies up every couple of weeks, which is great, though they are mainly done to allow them to track the movement of fill material around the site.

View along the earth embankment about 2m
                          above ground level
Pic 1: Future westbound carriageway of the A6 approaching Bellshill Road on 24 June 2018. The ground here was dug down to 2 metres below the adjacent ground level and then filled up to about 2 metres above that level. The gravel on the right is the subsurface of the future road. [Wesley Johnston].

Semi-circular earthen mound curving up to
                          the left.
Pic 2: Earth embankment that will carry the east-facing sliproads from the Bellshill Road flyover onto the A6 on 24 June 2018. The current A6 Castledawson Bypass is just ahead. The photographer is standing on what will be the central reservation. [Wesley Johnston].

Engineers walking towards Bellshill Road
Pic 3: Members of the public at the ICE open day walking towards Bellshill Road flyover on their gudied tour on 24 June 2018, on what will be the future westbound carriageway. [Wesley Johnston].

Underside of Bellshill Road showing 4
                          beams and 4 central columns
Pic 4: Underneath of the Bellshill Road flyover on 24 June 2018. The bridge consists of two abutments, four central columns (shown here) and eight beams. Once the beams are put in place plastic formwork sheets are inserted between them (visible here) and the concrete deck poured on top. The road is then constructed directly on the deck. [Wesley Johnston].

Parapet of Bellshill Road bridge with
                          moulding removed
Pic 5: Newly completed parapet on Bellshill Road bridge on 24 June 2018. The red "formwork" that can be seen on the left previously ran right across the bridge and was used to case the concrete. Now that the parapet has been completed, the formwork can be removed. The bridge is not yet open as the approach embankments are still under construciton. [Wesley Johnston].

                          beside Moyola Bridge with beams and deck in
Pic 6: View east towards te Moyola Road bridge on 24 June 2018. The section ahead will carry the future westbound carriagway. Due to increased environmental standards, this bridge gives over a metre greater clearance over the river than the 1990 bridge to the left of it. [Wesley Johnston].

13 May 2018: Construction of this scheme has just passed its first anniversary, and there is now just a year or so to go until the stretch from Randalstown to Toome opens to traffic (officially due to open "during 2019"). There will be few travellers who will miss the Moneynick Road that it will replace! Work on this stretch continues to advance well, and this is best seen via this computer-generated aerial movie of the stretch as it was last week. The movie begins at the Drumderg roundabout at Toome, and you can see the new footbridge now in place at 00:06, as well as the new park-and-ride facility underway. The existing park-and-ride car park, on the opposite side of the roundabout, will be removed to make way for the enlarged roundabout and connection to the new dual-carriageway. (I will resist the temptation to discuss yet again what a shame it is that this roundabout is to remain!) The flight then goes along the offline route of the new dual-carriageway showing (for example) the new Ballynafey Road overbridge with beams in place at 1:27, box culverts at 1:39 and 1:46, a significant cutting at 1:52, foundations for an agrticultural accommodation overbridge going in at 2:10, gravel foundations being put in place between 2:20 and 2:35, the new Derrygowan Road overbridge in place (minus its approach ramps) at 2:35, the cutting to approach the existing M22 (which has still not been cut through the final stretch) at 3:07, and finally the Randalstown West bridge in place at 3:12. Work is also underway on the Castledawson to Toome stretch. This is best seen in the first two photographs below (kindly sent by Damien Devlin of Jupe a couple of weeks ago but which I have only just got a chance to put up) and also in this computer-generated aerial movie of the stretch as it was on Friday. The notes on the video advise that due to windy conditions some sections are missing. The video begins at Castledawson Roundabout, which has had trees felled to make way for a planned new footbridge structure. Continuing along the existing Castledawson Bypass you can see that the embankment for the widened road is almost complete with gravel foundations in place on a long stretch. The new Bellshill Road/Annaghmore Road flyover is visible at 0:37. This bridge also requires construction of a new local road which, if you are interested, is covered separately in this movie. Bellshill Road flyover has now had its deck completed and the temporary formwork was removed yesterday. The widened bridge over the Moyola river is visible at 0:48, with its deck under construction. The visuals reappear at 01:00, which is the point at which the stretch where work was paused during a legal challenge begins. Significant process can be seen since work began in March, including a new temporary road to carry Hillhead Road traffic around the construction site of a future overbridge at 1:19. No earthworks appear to have yet begun between here and Deerpark Road, visible at 1:56, but after this major earthworks now appear to be underway along the stretch that runs parallel to Lough Beg. At 2:35 the view reaches the site of the future Creagh grade-separated junction, with the loop for the eastbound sliproads visible on the left but no sign yet of the future flyover. This junction will be linked by a short stretch of new road to the existing Creagh roundabout. Finally, at 2:46, the view reaches the existing Toome Bypass where the stretch terminates. The photographs below show some of the same things but higher-resolution. My thanks to Shay Sweetnam and Damien Devlin of Jupe for sending me these images to share. Excellent work by all involved in the scheme. A reminder once again that the contractor is maintaining a very useful web site that gives advance notice of the dates of planned closures as well as  progress notes and photographs of their own.

View east along the A6 Castledawson Bypass on 29 April 2018 showing the foundation for the future westbound carriageway now in place, with all traffic using the existing road which will be reconstructed later to become the eastbound carriageway [Damien Devlin].

View, looking north-east, of the new Bellshill Road grade-separated junction with bridge deck and approach embankments both in place. The route of the future eastbound sliproads is easily discerned in the shape of the curved embankment above the bridge. [Damien Devlin]

View of Drumderg roundabout, Toome, on 29 April 2018 looking south-east, showing the footbridge now in place over the start of the existing Toome Bypass (though minus its ramps and steps), the new park-and-ride on the left, the route of the future dual-carriageway to Randalstown at the top of the shot, and the route of the realigned Moneynick Road (which will revert to being a local road) taking shape above the new car park. The existing Drumderg roundabout has shrunk to the size of a postage stamp, but it will return in more glory than ever, expanding beyond its original size to cover most of the existing park-and-ride facility seen just above the current roundabout. [Damien Devlin]

Ground-level shot of the new Drumderg footbridge in place on 28 April 2018, taken from the existing park-and-ride facility. [Shay Sweetnam]

21 Apr 2018: From the point of view of the travelling public, considerable change has been evident in the past two weeks. Firstly, the bridge beams for the Randalstown West grade-separated junction (Artresnahan, at the end of the M22 motorway) were lifted into place during a weekend closure on 13-15 April. The bridge consists of two spans, the central pillars of which occupy what was the westbound carriageway of the M22, hence why the M22 reduces to one lane each way further back. Each span consists of five 30 metre beams, each weighing 60 tonnes, meaning a total of ten beams were lifted over the weekend. The pictures below were taken from a DFI tweet and show the beams in place. Great work by the contractor. A further 15 bridge beams for the widened bridge over the Moyola River near Castledawson were also lifted into place over the past week. Tomorrow (Sunday) will see the installation of the deck of the new footbridge over the Toome Bypass at Drumderg roundabout, which is to provide pedestrian access to the relocated park-and-ride site. The concrete bridge pillars are already in situ, but the deck itself is a steel arch structure which is already on site, ready to be placed atop the pillars. The pictures below of this bridge are taken from another DFI tweet. The other obvious change for the public is the creation of a new roundabout at Derryhollagh Road between Toome and Randalstown. This may be a nuisance, but is required to facilitate the safe access to the side road for construction vehicles on this very busy, bendy road. The roundabout will be removed at a later date. Finally, a reminder that you can get up-to-date information on the works at the contractor's own web site.

Pic 1: View of the Randalstown West overbridge a few weeks ago showing the pillars under construction in what was the westbound carriageway of the M22. View is looking east. [DFI from here]

Pic 2: Similar view to picture 1 on 16 April 2018, showing the ten bridge beams in place at Randalstown West, along with associated falsework on either side to facilitate construction workers. [DFI from here]

Pic 3: A heavy-duty crane finishing up at Randaltown West on 16 April 2018. In total the ten bridge beams that have been installed weigh 600 tonnes and will have taken the same number of specialist lorries to bring them to the site. [DFI from here]

Pic 4: View looking south across the Randalstown West overbridge with the bridge beams in place. The concrete walls closest to the camera are the wing walls of the bridge abutment, with the black material being a waterproofing layer on the section that will be below ground level when the bridge is completed. The people give the scale of this impressive structure. [DFI from here]

Pic 5: One of the spans of the Drumderg footbridge sitting beside the A6 last week ready to be craned into position on 22 April. The man on the left is standing on the pillar for the main span, with the smaller cylindrical pillars being for the approach ramp. [DFI from here]

Pic 6: A smaller prefabricated bridge section waiting beside the pillar that will support it once it carries pedestrians over the A6 Toome Bypass, visible beyond. [DFI from here]

3 Apr 2018: The past fortnight has seen another milestone on the construction of this new road, and that is the commencement of work on the stretch from The Creagh to Hillhead Road. Work on this stretch had been delayed initially by an unsuccessful legal challenge, and then by the environmental requirement not to carry out major works in this area during the swan overwintering season. However this restriction ended in mid March and work has now commenced on the stretch - a milestone as it means that work is finally underway on all parts of the scheme. Matthew Cole took some photos of these earthworks advancing away from The Creagh four days ago and posted them here on Twitter. An aerial YouTube video of the same area uploaded on 29 March can be viewed here. Work has now been underway for ten months and progress continues to be excellent. About a fortnight ago the beams for the Ballynafey Road overbridge were craned into position. This is reported on the contractor's own web site, which is being regularly updated with lots of interesting information and photos and is well worth bookmarking. According to that web site, the bridge beams for the Randalstown West overbridge (at the end of the M22) are scheduled to be lifted into place between 13 and 16 April, requiring a weekend closure of the A6 here. Two other lifts planned in the near future are the beams for the widened bridge over the River Moyola (11-13 April) and the installation of the footbridge that is currently under construction at the start of the Toome Bypass at Drumderg roundabout.

13 Mar 2018: Last weekend saw a great deal of excitement on the scheme with a major beam lift taking place at Bellshill Road on the Castedawson Bypass. The flyover requires 8 reinforced concrete beams, 4 each on two spans, that will carry Bellshill Road over the new dual-carriageway. The beams are so large that they require a lorry each and they were seen parked up at the end of the M22 near Randalstown the week prior to the lift. The A6 at Castledawson was closed over the weekend and the beams were carried along the Moneynick Road via Toome (spotted by one eagle-eyed infrastructure fan) on Friday night. The lift itself seems to have had perfect weather and all eight beams were firmly in place by the time the road reopened. Several more infrastructure fans photographed the lift and the outcome. The pictures below are DFI photos and show the result. For safety and efficiency the four outermost beams had their falsework (temporary construction platforms) already bolted on prior to the lift. Thank you to all the people who tweeted updates and sent me photos - it is great to see how many people out there are interested in this project. Well done to the contractor.

Crane lifting one of the beams for Bellshill Road into place c10 Mar 2018. This beam has the temporary falsework already bolted on ready for construction of the deck above. [DFI photograph taken from this tweet]

View of the four beams making up one of the two spans of the Bellshill Road flyover following the beam lift, c10 Mar 2018. Work will now focus on completing the deck above. [DFI photograph taken from this tweet]

The job completed - eight beams successfully in place at Bellshill Road, c10 Mar 2018. The current A6 Castledawson Bypass is in the foreground, which is to be upgraded to full dual-carriageway with one carriageway passing under each span. [DFI photograph taken from this tweet]

20 Feb 2018: Work continues well on both halves of the scheme. On the entirely offline Randalstown to Toome stretch work has been focused on building culverts for the numerous watercourses on the stretch, and creating large cuttings and embankments to allow the road to traverse the hilly terrain. This computer-generated aerial video, put up by the contractor on 19 Feb, shows a typical 1.5 km stretch of the new road showing all these features. The road is designed to have a cut/fill balance, ie material cut from one place is used as fill elsewhere. However it often happens that the fill is needed before the cuts are done, or that the fill needs to be of a different type than the material sourced from the cuts. This problem is resolved by taking rock out of a "borrow pit", which is later filled in again with fill. Borrow pit "K", located close to Moneynick Primary School, has seen explosives used to blast out the rock. You can see a video of a blast (from last December) here with the blast happening at 00:17, and an aerial video of how borrow pit K looked this week here. Blasting in another borrow pit is close to the current A6 meaning the road has to be shut for 30 minutes during blasting. At the tie-in to the end of the M22 at Randalstown, construction of the future flyover is underway, with all traffic shifted over to one side to make space for the work. At the Toome end, work to enlarge the 14 year old Drumderg roundabout is also well underway. This aerial movie shows the current state of works with the curved road at the top left of the video (at the very start) being the new bit of road that will allow the existing Moneynick Road to be accessed once the dual-carriageway opens. A footbridge is also being built over the start of the existing Toome Bypass in order to provide access to the new park-and-ride facility which will be sited on the far side of the roundabout. On the partly online Toome to Castledawson stretch, intense work is taking place to widen the existing Castledawon Bypass (itself opened in 1992). This involves two major bridges - a flyover at Bellshill Road, and widening the bridge over the Moyola River. Because the route on this stretch is literally on top of the existing road, we are currently experiencing a series of unavoidable weekend closures that began on 26 January and will disrupt Belfast-Derry traffic until at least mid March. This aerial video begins at the Moyola Bridge and then heads east, and shows progress as of last week. You can see the proximity of the works to the existing road. At 00:15 in the video you can see the route of the new dual-carriageway heading offline to the left. This is the start of the offline stretch that passes near Lough Beg. Work on this stretch is currently paused due to overwintering swans, but is due to commence within the next couple of months. Work has now been underway on the project for 9 months. With thanks to David Chambers for a correction to the borrow pit identifications.

7 Jan 2018: December saw low temperatures and a lot of snow, but it didn't stop the contractors (Graham Farrans Joint Venture) who installed the first bridge beams on the scheme in the middle of the month. The beams were for an overbridge that will carry Derrygowan Road over the new dual-carriageway between Toome and Randalstown. The photos below were taken from the Department for Infrastructure's Twitter feed. They show how the bridge consists of two abutments, plus a set of central columns in what will be the central reservation, creating two spans. The precast concrete beams were put in place over the course of two days, five for each span. The scale of these beams is enormous - the first photo shows that they are so large and heavy that they require a lorry each! The contractor has put up an article on the lift on their new dedicated web site here. The new web site for the scheme can be accessed at www.a6rcdualling.co.uk which contains updates and photos and well worth checking out. It is also worth watching two movies on YouTube which are computer-enhanced flythroughs of the scheme as it looked in mid December. The first movie, here, starts at Castledawson Roundabout and travels 4km east to near Toome. Beyond this, in the vicinity of Toome, there is currently a moratorium on major earthworks taking place due to overwintering swans, but this will cease to be a restriction in March at which point earthworks can commence here too. The second movie begins at Drumderg roundabout east of Toome (note the new footbridge over the Toome Bypass being built at 00:04) and goes 7km east, all the way to Randalstown. Derrygowan Road bridge appears at 02:12, though the video was made before the beams were in place. At the end of the scheme, you can see the foundations of the bridge at the future grade separated junction at the end of the M22 at 02:48. Work has now been underway for seven months, with three years to go until completion of the whole project.

A single precast reinforced concrete beam arrives by lorry at Derrygowan Road in mid December 2017. [DFI from here]

After being unloaded, a 500 tonne crane lifts the beam ready to swing it over to its new home over the future dual-carriageway near Derrygowan Road in mid December 2017. [DFI from here]

Graham Farrans Joint Venture engineers place the beam in its place, in this case forming part of the northern bridge span. Derrygowan Road currently runs on the left, but will be rerouted over this bridge once it's finished, and the new A6 will run underneath. Taken in mid December 2017. [DFI from here]

The beam in place, forming the second of five beams that will make up the northern span of the Derrygowan Road overbridge. The five beams for the southern span are already in place ahead. Taken in mid December 2017. Note the cutting heading off into the right distance, which will be the route of the new dual-carriageway. [DFI from here]

30 Nov 2017: A very quick update to share another aerial movie which has been posted on YouTube by JUPE, showing progress on the Castledawson Bypass around a month ago (apologies for the delay in posting this). At time index 0:55 you an see a good top view of the new Bellshill Road/Annaghmore Road grade separated junction with the foundations of the bridge piers now in place. On the rest of the scheme work seems to be progressing well, though delays on the westbound M22 at Randalstown due to the roadworks continue to cause considerable delays and consternation on social media.

14 Oct 2017: The scheme has now been underway for about 5 months, and there has been a lot of progress at some points. I have 6 photos to share this time, the first 3 of which are with thanks to the contractor Graham/Farrans and the second 3 of which are with thanks to John Toner, who took aerial photos from a drone. The first three pictures below were taken on the Randalstown-Toome stretch where work to date seems to be focused on major earthworks, in particular a very large excavation. I am not 100% sure whether this is a cutting or the road itself, or whether it is some kidn of 'borrow pit', but either way it looks to be at least 20 metres deep. The second set of images show works on the Castledawson Bypass at the western end of the scheme. This road only dates back to the mid 1990s but is being upgraded to dual-carriageway standard as part of the scheme. This includes a major junction with Bellshill Road which looks very advanced with most of the approach embankments now in place. Work appears to have begun on the foundations for the flyover at its centre. Work on the second bridge over the Moyola River (adjacent to the existing structure) is more advanced with work on the two abutments well underway. Working close to the River involves a lot of environmental constraints - for example, it appears that the contractor cannot operate machinery in the river itself, as would have happened in years gone by. Finally, a video has appeared on YouTube showing aerial views of a range of locations but showing the Castledawson Bypass around 3:00.

Heavy plant using a temporary access road on the A6 scheme between Randalstown and Castledawson c21 Sep 2017. This road has been made from rock covered with earth to allow machinery to access the various parts of the site. [Graham Farrans]

Excavation work underway between Randalstown and Castledawson in late September 2017. [Graham Farrans]

Very deep excavation underway about half way between Randalstown and Castledawson. This is either a deep cutting for the road, or a borrow pit (to get material to construct embankments elsewhere). c21 Sep 2017. [Graham Farrans]

Work underway on 1 Oct 2017 to build a second crossing of the River Moyola on the Castledawson Bypass near the western end of the scheme. As far as I am aware, the existing bridge will be re-used for the future eastbound carriageway. [John Toner]

Bellshill Road grade-separated junction on the Castledawson bypass taking shape on 1 Oct 2017, looking west. Both current T-junctions will be closed and replaced by a flyoer around the middle of this shot. On the left is a new embankment that will support a roundabout. The earth road at the bottom of the shot is a temporary access road. [John Toner]

The western terminus of the scheme at the Castledawson Roundabout, looking east on 1 Oct 2017. Two interesting things to see here - firstly the recently-completed A31 Magherafelt Bypass is heading off to the right. Secondly, note the very wide area of earth to the right of the A6 approaching the roundabout in the centre of this shot. This embankment is only a couple of hundred feet long, but dates back to the construction of Castledawson Roundabout in the early 1970s and was this wide because it was intended to be the terminus of the M22 motorway, which was never completed to its intended terminus here. Part of it was re-used for the A6 Castledawson Bypass in 1992, but the new dual-carriageway will cover the remainder. [John Toner]

19 Sep 2017: Today saw the ruling on the appeal by environmentalist Chris Murphy to the judicial review that he lost in March. He was challenging the legality of the DFI's environmental assessments on the section of the road between Toome and Castledawson (the legally contested stretch being specifically the stretch from the western end of the Toome Bypass to Deerpark Road). In the event the judges dismissed all of Mr Murphy's points and ruled that the DFI had correctly complied with relevant environmental legislation. The summary judgement is available on the Courts Service web site here. Notably the judges expressed the view that a delay of several years between a project being approved and work commencing (as was the case here and which Mr Murphy felt necessitated a further assessment) is not unreasonable: "The Habitats Directive imposes no time constraint on the duration of an appropriate assessment and in the case of major infrastructural projects there is often a likelihood of some time lag between authorization and implementation of the project”. DFI, for their part, immediately welcomed the ruling in their favour with a press release. Mr Murphy has the option of attempting to appeal to the Supreme Court and has indicated that this is an option he will consider.

In their press release DFI says "As a result of the judgement the Department will commence construction of the Toome to Moyola River section of the scheme which had been delayed due to the legal challenge". By way of background, DFI had previously agreed not to begin major works on the stretch from Toome to the Moyola River in Castledawson, so works undertaken to date have been restricted to the Randalstown to Toome stretch, and the bit west of the Moyola River. The map below illustrates the situation with the works already underway shown in dark blue. The ruling means that DFI are now free to begin work on the Toome to Moyola stretch. However, a complication is that the Environmental Statement imposes a restriction that major earthworks (note, not "all" works) cannot take place between Deerpark Road and Toome between late September and mid March. This is for environmental reasons and is not directly related to the legal challenge. I would define "major earthworks" to be anything that involves constructing the bed of the road itself, so I would consider embankments, cuttings or bridges to be "major earthworks". DFI have not said when they intend to start work, but having now successfully defended two legal challenges I would say they will be in no mood for further delay and so I would expect to see work begin on the Moyola River to Deerpark Road stretch within days. We are likely also to see minor works commencing on the contested Deerpark Road to Toome stretch in the coming weeks (eg vegetation clearance, fencing etc), but we will not see major earthworks until mid March due to the restrictions of the Environmental Statement. Again, the map below attemps to summarise this and help make sense of all these different stretches.

Status of the A6 dualling scheme as of 19 Sep 2017.

5 Sep 2017: Progress on the scheme seems to be going very well. This update by Farrans (one of the contractors) shows some closeup images of the work underway, including a deeper excavation - it's hard to tell from the image but this is either a cutting for the road itself, or else some kind of borrow pit for sourcing material. Either way good weather during the summer seems to have helped. Meanwhile, a court hearing took place on 15 August. This is an appeal by environmentalist Chris Murphy to the judicial review that he lost in March. He is challenging the section of the road between Toome and Castledawson. The judges reserved their judgement, which was then due to be given yesterday, but has apparently been delayed to sometime "later in the week". The substance of the appeal appears to be Mr Murphy's argument that the environmental assessments were out of date and did not take into account more recent considerations and environmental legislation. DFI Roads obviously defended their assessments vigorously. Originally the verdict was to have been given on the same day, so the decision to reserve judgement tells us that the verdict is not straightforward. This implies to me that Mr Murphy has at least got an arguable case. Regardless of the strong desire by many, especially in the North West, to have this road built, the judges will decide the case on the immediately relevant legal facts only. My (admittedly only superficially informed) impression of the case is that it could go either way. Both sides in the case do, of course, have options for further appeals (eg the Supreme Court or even the European Court) so whether DFI win or lose, this saga could be far from over. If, hypothetically, DFI were to lose then it would probably mean going back to square one in terms of route selection and environmental assessments which would add a period of years, rather than months, to the completion of the delayed section between Castledawson and Randalstown. Finally, the works have required a lane closure at the western end of the M22 which has caused significant tailbacks westbound in recent days. This is slightly puzzling as the road always went down from two lanes to one at the end of the M22, it is just the location that has changed. Perhaps someone in DFI Roads more familiar with the setup might be able to see if anything could be done to ease the merge as it is going to last several months.

For updates prior to September 2017 please see the archive.