A6 Dualling - Randalstown (M22) to Castledawson

 

Status
Construction scheme (under construction)
Contractor
Graham/Farrans Joint Venture
Where
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

Dates

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)

Cost

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.


EAST

Begins as M22 motorway

2+2 lanes

RANDALSTOWN WEST

or ARTRESNAHAN

A6 Moneynick Road
(to Randalstown)

B183 Moneynick Road

(former A6)

 

7.0 km / 4.4 miles - 2+2 lanes

DRUMDERG

B183 Moneynick Road

(former A6)

 B18 Moneynick
Road

 (into Toome)

 
1.2 km / 0.7 miles - 2+2 lanes

ROGUERY ROAD



 Roguery Road


 The Toome Bridge

 


Roguery Road
(into Toome)

River Bann

 
0.7 km / 0.4 miles - 2+2 lanes
OLD BANN ROAD

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

THE CREAGH
Boilas Lane 

 B? Hillhead Road

 Creagh Business Park

 B? Hillhead Road

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

Hillhead Road

(into Castledawson)

 B? Hillhead Road

 (current A6)


2.0 km / 1.2 miles - 2+2 lanes

BELLSHILL ROAD  /

ANNAGHMORE ROAD

Linking to

Bellshill Road

Local access


Link to Annaghmore Road

 
1.2 km / 0.7 miles - 2+2 lanes
CASTLEDAWSON

A54 Magherafelt Rd

(into Castledawson)

 A31 Magherafelt Road

 (to Magherafelt)

 

WEST

Terminates as A6 towards Londonderry

Progress

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

For updates prior to February 2020 please see the archive.