M1 to A1 flyover link, Sprucefield

 

Status
Construction scheme (future)
Where
Construction of a new motorway flyover link directly between the M1 in the Belfast direction and the A1, and the  provision of a new grade separated junction serving Hillsborough.
Total Length
Approx 3.0km - 5.0km depending on route
Dates

First proposed July 2006

Scheme given go-ahead April 2008

Stage 1 assessment report published March 2012
Scheme officially on hold - as of Sep 2016

(Construction had been expected by 2018 as of Nov 2010)

Cost
85m - 104m depending on route (as of Mar 2012)
changed from 45m (as of 2006)

Photos/Maps

See maps below

No photos as yet - please contact me if you have any to contribute.

See Also

General area map - Google Maps
Stage 1 Assessment Report (Mar 2012) - Roads Service

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

It has been a common complaint that the main route on the island of Ireland, Belfast to Dublin, involves traffic leaving Belfast along the M1 and then going off at a sliproad, and crawling round two roundabouts before continuing on the A1 dual-carriageway towards Newry and Dublin. The current arrangement uses two related junctions (7 and 8) at Sprucefield which also serves the western end of Lisburn city, a major shopping centre and (since 2004) a large retail park. This scheme will see a bypass constructed to give freeflow access between the A1 and M1 (east).

At the time of writing (April 2012) two route corridors are under consideration. These are shown on the map below. It is important to stress that these lines indicate the centres of general route corridors which extend for a few hundred metres on either side of the line shown. They are not final routes. Please do not be alarmed if your property lies on or close to the line itself. The Culcavy East route corridor is shown in blue, and the Central route corridor is shown in red. The purple line is the old 2006 route corridor that is no longer being actively considered. You scan see how the scheme design has advanced in scale since 2006.


View M1 A1 Sprucefield Bypass in a larger map

The next stage in the process will be to refine the design of these two options and then pick one. Here are some relevant statistics for the two corridors, taken from the March 2012 Stage 1 report:

CULCAVY EAST
CENTRAL
Approximate Length of new road
3.0 km
4.5 - 5.0 km
Estimated construction cost
102 - 104m
84.7m - 88.7m
30 year Cost/Benefit ratio (>1 means beneficial)
1.01 - 1.02
1.43 - 1.53

The scheme appears to be being designed specifically to prevent local traffic using the new stretch of road. This will be achieved by allowing traffic to enter the new stretch only from the M1 (east) or A1 (south), but NOT from Lisburn, the M1 (west) or local traffic from Culcavy and Hillsborough. All of this traffic will have to use the existing section of A1 between Hillsborough and Sprucefield, which would not be an issue given that traffic levels here would fall very dramatically once the new link opens.

Note that, because it leads inevitably onto the M1, the new link road legally MUST be a motorway too, at least northbound from the last available exit. Whether it will be signed as a motorway with blue signs, or merely be a legal but unsigned 'secret' motorway, is not yet known. The other interesting point is that the Culcavy East corridor joins the M1 at the existing junction 8. To avoid weaving (cars trying to change lanes from left to right while others are trying to change from right to left), this would require the construction of braided sliproads (sliproads which cross each other). There are plenty of these in Great Britain, but none currently in Northern Ireland.

History of Scheme

The scheme was outlined in the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan of 2006. The map below (based on the land protection corridor outlined in the BMAP Plan Amendment Number One, 2006) showed an indicative layout. A road protection corridor was put in place so that this 4.0 km / 2.5 mile route could be built. The cost at that point was estimated at 45m. The scheme was given the formal go-ahead in the document "Investment Delivery Plan for Roads" published in April 2008.

Proposed link at Sprucefield (shown in purple) as of 2006.
This option is no longer under consideration.

Updates

22 Sep 2016: In my last update two years ago I noted that insufficient funding had been made available to continue development work into 2015, and this situation seems to be continuing. The Department for Infrastructure web page about this scheme was last updated in June 2016 and now says "Due to current budget restrictions there is insufficient funding to allow development work to continue. Progression of the scheme beyond this period will be subject to future budget settlements". That means nothing whatsoever has happened on this scheme since around 2012 and nothing further seems to be planned in the foreseeable future. So this scheme is effectively parked and is now sitting well and truly in the "would be nice" pile, hopefully to be picked up at some point in the years ahead. A big change from 2010 when we were told the road would be constructed by 2018. What a difference a recession makes.

16 Aug 2014: The DRD web page on this scheme is now saying "Due to current budget restrictions there is insufficient funding to allow development work to continue during this financial year, and it is anticipated to remain the case until the end of the 2015 budget period. Progression of the scheme beyond this period will be subject to available funding." The statement is not dated, so it's not clear what "this financial year" refers to, or whether "the end of the 2015 budget period" means April 2015 or April 2016, but either way the bottom line is that nothing is currently happening on this scheme which seems to now be a bit down the list of priorities within Transport NI (the new name for Roads Service). I doubt if we'll see much news about this scheme for the next two or three years, so in the meantime keep enjoying the only remaining set of roundabouts between Belfast and Dublin. Honk honk!

5 Nov 2012: The traffic problems experienced at the Hillsborough roundabout on the A1 were the subject of an adjournment debate in Stormont a fortnight ago. This gave the "roads" Minister the opportunity to update us on this scheme. He did not say much that we do not know, except to comment that Roads Service are giving consideration to signalising the Hillsborough roundabout due to the extensive queues that form here at peak times. He noted that a previous signalisation scheme was cancelled due to "limited support for the scheme among the various representatives". He also said that a free-flow "jet lane" for northbound traffic was ruled out as being unsafe due to adjacent private accesses off the A1. He once again committed to the Sprucefield Bypass, but noting that it was still a future plan with no funding currently identified to build it.

5 April 2012: The Stage 1 report was published last month, albeit without any of the associated maps and diagrams. This document shows that the consultants looked at seven possible route corridors (click for map). One of these is the original 2006 route corridor. However it's clear that the scope of the scheme has grown in ambition. Of the seven corridors, two have been taken forward - the "Culcavy East" corridor passing close to Culcavy, and a "Central" corridor following a smoother, more sweeping version of the 2006 corridor. I have shown these corridors on the Google map above. Both corridors depart from the A1 south of the Hillsborough Roundabout. It's fairly safe to say, therefore, that grade separating Hillsborough Roundabout is no longer part of the scheme. What will probably happen instead is that there will be a new junction for Hillsborough (probably with south-facing sliproads only), but the old roundabout will remain in-situ, demoted to the use of local traffic. Both options tie in to the existing M1 with east-facing sliproads only, meaning that the existing A1 will also have to remain in use for traffic coming from the M1 (west) and from Lisburn. The costs of the two options are given as 104m for Culcavy East and 85m for the Central corridor, both of which are well in excess of the 45m figure given back in 2006, although that was for a much shorter scheme. The Central corridor gives the best 30 year cost/benefit ratio (1.48 compared to 1.02 for Culcavy East). Anything above 1 means that the scheme will bring more benefits than costs, so this implies that the Culcavy East corridor would just about break even, but the Central corridor would be more beneficial overall. In terms of construction, the official line is still "by 2018", but given the number of competing schemes and general lack of money I would regard this as very unlikely.

30 Jan 2011: According to a written question in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 17 December 2010, the consultants that Roads Service appointed in early 2009 (see previous update) are still working on the scheme and will publish a Stage 1 Report "early next year". The Stage 1 Report will outline the route corridors within which further options will be considered. Given that this work has already been ongoing for almost two years, this suggests that there is no particular urgency with this scheme. Indeed, the recent budget cuts mean that it is unlikely to be constructed in the foreseeable future anyway. The Minister is currently giving construction "between 2014 and 2018", but I would be surprised if work is underway even by 2018.

29 Aug 2009: According to Roads Service's report to Lisburn City Council in June 2009, they have now appointed Scott Wilson as consultants to develop proposals for this scheme. It should be noted that the scheme may not follow the "road protection corridor" that I used for my mockup maps above, so could be completely different. The say: "The commission will require the consideration of a range of options and an evaluation of all of the viable options available for capacity enhancement along this route. Proposals would take account of future development proposals in the area and any detailed proposals developed for the road improvement would be subject to public scrutiny through the normal statutory processes."

12 Jan 2009: Roads Service issued a leaflet about the scheme in November. The leaflet doesn't really say anything new, but it does confirm Roads Service's committment to the scheme and suggests that the BMAP "road protection corridor" that is used for the maps above still seems to be valid. The leaflet estimates that the scheme will be completed during the period 2014-2018.