St Patrick's Barracks Link Road, Ballymena

 

Status
Construction scheme (completed)
Contractor  
FP McCann
Scheme
New single-carriageway link road connecting the A42 Broughshane Road to the A26 Larne Road, Ballymena.
Total Length
2.3 km / 1.4 miles (of which 1.4 km / 0.9 miles is entirely new road and the remainder is an upgrade of existing roads)
Dates

2007 - Ministry of Defence deem St Patrick's Barracks to be surplus

2011 - Land handed over to NI Executive
25 Nov 2016 - Draft St Patrick's Barracks Masterplan published
Oct 2017 - Demolition of existing barracks began

Late Feb 2020 - Site clearance work began at both ends of the scheme

29 Apr 2021 - scheme went out to tender (closing date 3 June)

27 Apr 2022 - tender for construction awarded to FP McCann

Late May 2022 - work began

16 June 2023, 4.15pm - road opened to traffic

Cost

5.8m (construction cost only) as of May 2022

See Also

Draft St Patrick's Barracks Masterplan - DFC

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

St Patrick's Barracks in Ballymena was originally occupied by the Army but has lain empty since 2011. The site contains a large area of land close to Ballymena town centre and its development has been the subject of a masterplan produced by the Department for Communities and Mid and East Antrim Council. The component of the plan that interests us is the proposed new link road that will traverse the site connecting the A26 Larne Road to the south with the A42 Broughshane Road to the north. The new road will be 2.3 km long, of which 0.9 km is a re-use of sections of existing road and 1.4 km of which is entirely new road. The map below shows the proposed route. The red line shows the entirely new part of the road while the yellow lines show existing roads that will be re-used. The green lines show other external road links that are planned for the site, but which technically aren't part of the St Patrick's Barracks Link Road.

Updates

21 Jun 2023: The new St Patrick's Barracks link road opened to traffic at 4.15pm on Friday 16 June! A planned public event the day of the opening was cancelled as a mark of respect due to a life lost in the local area. Traffic appeared to be slow to discover that the road was opened, as some of the first drivers reported pedestrians walking down the middle of the road at first! Dave Sweeney was the first to post a video of driving along the road, taken about two hours after opening! The video starts at the south end of the road, on Larne Road Link, and continues to Broughshane Road roundabout. It then turns round and goes back to Larne Road Link. Many congratualtions to FP McCann, Amey and all their sub-contractors for a great job! I have marked the scheme as "completed" as it is completed from the point of view of the travelling public, though completion works may carry on for a few more weeks.

7 Jun 2023: Five days ago (on 2 June) I was given a tour of the site by the main contractor FP McCann and designers Amey. I spent a couple of hours with several people from the team. We walked the southern half of the scheme looking at vartious things. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned quite a few new things, some of which are included in the captions below. So thank you to you all! For clarity, the photos are arranged in order from north to south. People interested in the road should be aware that on 16 June people will be allowed to walk the full length of the road ahead of its official opening, which should happen later this month. With thanks to Stephen Livingston and Ian Hunter for sending me information.

Road
                          heading into distance with bare soil on each
                          side
Pic 1: 2 June 2023 Aerial view looking south rom the north end of the scheme, with the access road to Ecos heading off to the left. The fenced area to the right of the road ahead is shown in more detail in pic 4. The road sports double yellow lines along its entire length. [Wesley Johnston]

Turning head adjacent to new road
Pic 2: The "old" bit of Kernohan's Lane seen from above on 2 June 2023. I discovered that this has been retained mainly to provide a parking area for people accessing the Ecos Nature Park, rather than due to a need to adjust the curvature of the road. [Wesley Johnston]

Area
                          of soil with pipes leading into it from both
                          sides
Pic 3: As the road is built on a flood plain, the scheme includes an area of compensatory flood storage. When the Braid floods, water from the river (which is on the right here) flows through the pipes and then under the road in the culvert shown.... 2 June 2023 [Wesley Johnston]

Hollow in ground, dry but with cracks
                          indicating water was recently there
Pic 4: ... and out the other side into this large depression (also visible in pic 1). It has already been partially filled several times since the road was built. It remains here until the flood subsides and then it exits the same way it entered. Due to this feature, overall the flood plain has the same capacity it did before the road was built. 2 June 2023 [Wesley Johnston]

View
                          along a new road with building being built on
                          left
Pic 5: Looking across the new road to the new access road that leads to Suffolk Street, 2 June 2023. Importantly, I was told that this will only provide through access for pedestrians and cyclists as there will be bollards preventing vehicular access. It also provides access to the new Northern Regional College building which is being built on the left. [Wesley Johnston]

View
                          along new road with stretch of bare soil
                          between it and a footway on the left
Pic 6: View north along the scheme from further south on 2 June 2023. This bit of the road is finished with grass sown on the soil here, and native trees and shrubs now planted on the left. The footway on the right has been given a red strip to indicate that it is a shared cycle/footway. [Wesley Johnston]

Long
                          ditch with black plastic pipe in it and gravel
                          being placed on top
Pic 7: Drainage channel being installed at the base of a slope on on 2 June 2023. The pipe is is perforated to let water in and is covered with a layer of gravel. The idea is that water running off the slope will soak into the gravel and hence into the pipe, rather than washing across the footway. [Wesley Johnston]

Road
                          heading into distance curving to right and
                          going gently up hill
Pic 8: View south from near Castle Tower School on 2 June 2023. You don't appreciate from the air how much the road rises up at this point to go over the side of a small hillock (which has a rath at the summit). Social housing is now being built on the right here. There is a lot of steel barrier on the left here due to a slope down towards the river. [Wesley Johnston]

New
                          signalised pedestrian crossing but with lights
                          not yet connected
Pic 9: A new puffin crossing adjacent to Castle Tower School seen the day after it was fitted, on 2 June 2023. The red tactile paving contrasts with the tan coloured tactile paving that is used at non-signalised crossings. [Wesley Johnston]

Aerial view of a T-junction with new road
                          to bottom, traffic islands but no traffic
                          lights
Pic 10: Aerial view of the south end of the scheme on Larne Road Link on 2 June 2023. Signal heads have now been installed and the lights are due to go live within the next week. Before that happens, the line painters will come out to finalise the road markings here. [Wesley Johnston]

17 May 2023: We continue to be spoiled for images of this scheme. This time there are four photos taken by the contractor FP McCann, and reproduced here with their permission (thank you). Work appears to be progressing very well and FP McCann have confirmed that the road is scheduled for completion next month, in line with the original timetable of twelve months.

Aerial view of junction of the new road
                          with A26 Larne Road Link
Starting at the south end of the scheme, this is the future T-junction of the new road with the A26 Larne Road Link. It's not clear from this image whether the junction will be signalised, but the islands would certainly be right for a controlled junction. 17 May 2023 [FP McCann]

Aerial view of St Patrick's Barracks Link
                          Road
View south along the new road from beside the new Northern Regional College Campus and existing footbridge over the Braid River. The road surface seems to be complete here. Note what appears to be an access road and turning head for a mobile phone mast in the foreground. 17 May 2023 [FP McCann]

Aerial view of St Patrick's Link Road
Moving further north, this is the view south along the new road from its junction with the existing Kernohan's Lane (left) which leads to the Ecos Centre. Work here seems to be focused on the footways. 17 May 2023 [FP McCann]

Ground level view of the new road with
                          footway and barriers in place.
View of the footway along the east side of the new road near Northern Regional College, which has yet to get its final course of tarmac. Note also the crash barriers on the right which prevent errant vehicles going down the bank or entering the Braid river. The width of the footway suggests it may be marked out as an adjacent cycle way and footway. 17 May 2023 [FP McCann]

10 May 2023: A very quick update to share another drone video of the new road this time taken by Fossie's Drone Adventures. It was taken on 28 April and shows part of the road being used by vehicles, as described in the previous update below. You can see at 0:40 the loop of the former Kernohan's Lane at the north end of the scheme is to remain in place, with a turning head at one end. I am not sure why, as there are no vehicular accesses from it. Perhaps it is to retain access to utilities beneath?

28 Apr 2023: Another quick update to share dashcam footage shared by Ian Hunter (thank you) of the northern half of the road actually open to traffic, taken on Monday this week. This part of the road still has quite a bit of work to do, so it appears to be open purely to preserve access to the showgrounds while work is carried out on other accesses. Still, it's a tantalising milestone to be able to take a vehicle along even part of the road. Ian has kindly provided the below commentary on the video:

  • 0.13  New alignment diverges from original. Redundant formation in course of removal on the left (that pesky lamp post [see photo in update for 6 April below] is still there!)
  • 0.28  Access to remaining original alignment, to be repurposed as car parking.
  • 0.41  Revised access to ECOS Park with amended priority.
  • 1.30  Entrance to Showgrounds Car Park, limit of public access.
The remainder of the video is the same route in reverse.

6 Apr 2023: This update is to share three photos of the northern end of the scheme, where the road connects to the A42 Broughshane Road. At this end there was an existing local road (Kernohan's Lane) which made a very tight 90 turn (see map above). The upgraded road will soften this curve (click here for a map), so in the pictures below you can see the new alignment and the old alignment. It looks as if part of the old road on the corner will remain in situ, accessed by a short link. Perhaps the intention is to use it as a layby, or perhaps to preserve access to services or somesuch. The pictures are all by Ian Hunter, as well as useful information from the scene - thank you! Completio is expected by the end of May and that seems plausible with the progress I'm seeing.


View SE along the new alignment of road on 4 April 2023 with blacktop being laid. The old alignment of Kernohan's Lane is off to the left. The lamp post belonged to the older road and will be removed before the road opens (I hope!) [Ian Hunter].

Similar location to the previous shot, but moving left a bit. The "old" road is on the left, and in the foreground there is what appears to be a turning head. This suggests that the old road will remain as a cul-de-sac rather than being removed. 4 Apr 2023 [Ian Hunter]

Looking the other direction (north) from further along, this is the point where the new road (left) rejoins the alignment of the "old" road (right). This is roughly the same view before work began. 4 Apr 2023. [Ian Hunter]

22 Mar 2023: Another drone video is available, published by Fossie's Drone Adentures thank you! This one was filmed on St Patrick's Day, 17 March. The brief commentary below relate to the timings in the video in minutes and seconds:

  • 0:10 The video begins at the Suffolk Street connection and then turns left (north
  • 0:40 Along this whole stretch past the Braid the base courses of tarmac appear to be donw, with the final wearing course still to be added. The footways appear completed though it's hard to tell from the height.
  • 0:48 What appears to be a new flood attenuation pond. These collect runoff from storm events and release it slowly so as not to overwhelm local watercourses.
  • 0:55 Realignment taking place where the road passes the entrance to the Ecos Hub. Active tarmac laying is taking place here.
  • Video then turns round and heads south again.
  • 2:40 Southern end of the scheme is at a similar stage with base course laid.
  • 3:00 Work actively taking place on the connection to Larne Road Link.
  • Remainder of the video focuses on the new campus of Northern Regional College.

10 Mar 2023: This update is just to link to another drone video, published on 28 February 2023 by Kieran Mayo. The video starts at the south end of the scheme at Larne Road Link and ends at the northern end, on Broughshane Road, following the banks of the river Braid. As you can see work is very well advanced at the central part of the scheme, and is actively underway at the south end. Work at the northern end seems less advanced. The whole project is due for completion during May. With thanks to Ian Hunter for alerting me to this video.

8 Feb 2023: Progress over the past three months has been excellent. Fossie's Drone Adventures has just put up a new aerial video of the scheme taken on 28 January 2023. The video goes from north to south, but starts a little distance along the scheme, near to the Ecos Centre. In the video you can see that the kerb lines are in place along about two-thirds of the scheme now, and that street light columns are also in place. A portion of the road near Ballymena Showgrounds has now had tarmac added (see photo below by Ian Hunter). It looks like the contractor is laying the blacktop from the north/centre of the scheme towards the south. The brief commentary below relate to the timings in the video in minutes and seconds:

  • 0:26 View south with Ecos Centre off frame to the left.
  • 0:36 Tarmac-ed stretch with the Showgrounds to the right.
  • 1:15 New connecting road to Suffolk Street visible on the right. The main road here has kerbs and street light columns.
  • 2:03 T-junction for link road to connect to Demesne Avenue on the right, not yet built.
  • 2:50 Southern section of road with kerbs and street light columns here too.
  • 3:00 Terminus of the scheme at Larne Road Link. This short stretch is an existing road which will be widended. These works appear to be ongoing now, especially on the right close to Larne Road Link.

The scheme appears to be making good progress, so I am still expecting it to open around June 2023, though the contractor FP McCann has not said anything on this point.


Blacktop being laid on the new road at the Showgrounds on 31 January 2023. [Ian Hunter]

9 Nov 2022: The project, in time terms, is now approaching the half way point with six months almost done another six months estimated to go. Fossie's Drone Adventures has just put up a new aerial video of the scheme, beginning at the north end, heading south and then returning north again. It was taken four days ago on 5 November. The main takeaways from this video are that the earthworks for the road itself are very well advanced, with long lengths of embankments looking completed, and that drainage works are well underway. There are trenches on each side of the future road into which plastic pipes are being laid. These will then be connected to drains along the sides of the road. The very start and very end of the video show where the road meets the existing Kernohan's Lane, and the right bend here is being smoothed out. The first photo below was taken by Ian Hunter (thanks again!) and shows this area from ground level. Site clearance works took place here in September and since then the earthworks have got underway. The second video shows some of the earthworks from ground level. All in all, the scheme seems to be going well and to schedule.


View from Kernohan's Lane at the north end of the scheme (roughly here) on 5 Nov 2022, showing earthworks getting underway the future realigned road which will smooth out the bend here. The height of the future road can be judged from the manhole cover in the foregound. The gravel likely marks the location of a drainage channel along the side of the road. [Ian Hunter]

Earthworks visible from behind Castle Tower School, near the south end of the scheme on 7 Nov 2022. Note the lamp post mast already in place, minus the light fitting itself. The road here runs a couple of metres above the school ground level. [Ian Hunter]

14 Oct 2022: Work is continuing to progress and the site seems fairly busy now, with works evident at almost all parts of the scheme. Firstly, there is an aerial video of the whole scheme taken by Fossie's Drone Adventures, taken in late September. The video starts near the north end of the scheme at Kernohan's Lane and continues south to near its southern terminus at the cinema. Work initially focused on culverts but in more recent months has focused on the heavier earthworks which are now largely complete. The land here is very soft, being the alluvial banks of the river Braid, which means that the road base requires geotextile mats to be laid at the base of the foundations. These are then covered with a layer of stone, a task which has now been completed on a little over 50% of the route. These mats stabilise the soil and prevent the road surface shifting and breaking up. See photo below. The contractor, FP McCann, recently posted some magnificent aerial photos of the scheme, as well as a 'newsletter' for people interested in the scheme. This month work will begin on linking the new road through the cinema grounds to Larne Road Link. Work has also been taking place over the past couple of weeks at the northern end of the scheme. The picture below shows some of the works from ground level. Completion is still estimated for May 2023.


Good shot of the various layers being involved in building the new road, seen here near Ballymena Showgrounds at the north end of the scheme on 30 September. The bare earth is first excavated, then two layers of geotextile are laid - a continuous white roll, followed by bands of the black material. This, in turn, is then capped with a layer of gravel to provide a stable base for the road. The road surface itself will then be constructed on top of this. The houses are on Fisherwick Crescent. [Ian Hunter]

22 Sep 2022: A couple more photos, taken once again by Ian Hunter - thank you! The first shows a shallow cutting being excavated for the new road as it passes Tower school. The second shows recent vegetation clearance at the north end of the scheme. Vegetation clearance work took place here in Feb 2020, just before Covid, and in that time it had re-grown to quite an extent, so the clearance had to be repeated. Work has now been underway on the scheme for four months. Estimated completion is May 2023.


Earthworks underway for a shallow cutting next to Tower school, 4 Sep 2022. [Ian Hunter]

The north end of the scheme on 21 Sep 2022 after the second set of vegetation clearance work. There is an existing road here but it is due to be rebuilt on a shallower curve through the area ahead - see map in the update for Feb 2020 below. [Ian Hunter]

24 Aug 2022: A brief update to link to another drone video of the scheme, posted by Fossie (thank you). The video shows progress over the past month, though work doesn't seem to be progressing at a huge pace. The video is focused on the central part of the scheme, near the Ecos Centre, and shows a section of earthworks with geotextile fabric placed on top of it. There is a series of black pipes along this embankment (see 2:00 in the video), which might be vertical drains, or might simply be markers. Elsewhere there are telltale signs that new culverts across the line of the road have been completed and buried (eg 3:55). A lot of work still to be done over the coming autumn and winter.

24 Jul 2022: Work is now well underway on this scheme. To date the focus has been on earthworks and culverts, and in particular a section of new road that connects the showgrounds to the Barracks site. This stretch will be particularly useful to the contractor moving heavy plant around the site. The ground-level photos below were taken by Ian Hunter (thank you) with two more posted on Twitter recently by the contractor, FP McCann. Finally, Fossie has posted drone footage of the scheme taken on 9 July here.


North end of the scheme near Kernohan's Lane on 7 July. The white fencing is typically used to protect watercourses from silt being washed off work sites. [Ian Hunter]

Geotextile being laid on the central section of the new road near the showgrounds on 7 July. Geotextile is used on soft ground to provide a firmer base for the road. [Ian Hunter]

Culvert works underway on the route of the new road on 23 July. These are used to carry watercourses under the new road. [Image by FP McCann]

Aerial footage of works underway on the scheme, including a former sports field, on 23 July. The geotextile pictured above was being laid in the area of road visible in the middle distance here, now buried under more earth. [FP McCann]

25 May 2022: In the previous update I said we may see movement on this scheme before mid June, and so it has proved with contractor FP McCann establishing a site yard at the site. They also ran a public information event today. There is a lot of work going on in the vicinity of the new road, but these appear to be for a separate project and are unrelated to the road scheme. Hopefully we will see some concrete work beginning shortly.


FP McCann site yard taking shape on 23 May 2022 [Anonymous contributor].

15 May 2022: After being out to tender for over a year, the construction contract was finally awarded on 22 April 2022, to FP McCann (congratulations to them) who were one of five tenders received. The total value of the contract is 5.8m, slightly less than the 6m estimated by DFI when it went out to tender. There is no sign of work commencing at the time of writing, but contractors to generally want to get started fairly soon after an award so we may well see some movement over the next month. FP McCann themselves posted an update about the scheme, which gives a good bit more information about the plan as well as a road layout plan. The total construction period is due to last twelve months. Although work has not yet begun, I am moving the project to "under construction" due to the tender award. According to site visitor Ian Hunter, some of the rubble from the demolition that took place during 2020 was used to create an embankment along part of the road which has been fitted with vertical drains. This is normally done where land is soft and the embankment fill needs time to settle, so this was likely planned well in advance to allow the road works to commence without delay. Tree clearance was also completed in 2020, so there are no issues with the bird nesting season.

5 May 2021: A major milestone last week - the scheme went out to tender on 29 April. Contractors do not have long to submit their responses, with a deadline of 3 June 2021. As expected, the construction period is expected to be 12 months. I would expect to see a contractor appointed by mid summer with work likely to get underway before the autumn. This timescale would see the road completed by autumn 2022.

22 Mar 2021: At long last we seem to be edging closer to construction. DFI's "future tenders" list is saying that the construction tender will be released during March 2021, or perhaps shortly after. The tender value is estimated to be 6m, at the higher end of the 4-6m cost estimated. Once awarded, construction would be expected to get underway fairly quickly. If the contract were to be awarded in summer 2021, then it could be complete and open by mid 2022. We shall wait and see.

27 Feb 2020: Planning permission was granted for the scheme back in March 2019, and site clearance works seem to have got underway in the past couple of weeks at both ends of the scheme. As this work involves tree-felling it is important that it takes place ahead of the bird nesting season. The photos below are all by Ian Hunter (thank you) who also alerted me to the fact that work is underway. I can't locate the tender for the scheme, but as it's being led by the Department for Communities rather than the Department for Infrastructure I may have just missed it. It's also not clear whether this site clearance is a separate contract, or whether work on the road itself will get underway shortly. Nevertheless, I have now marked this scheme as underway.


Pic 1: This is the loop at the very northern end of the scheme (here), on what is currently the access road to the Ecos Centre, on 25 Feb 2020. Trees and brush have been removed here because the curve is being reduced in severity by going offline slightly, as shown in the map below. [Ian Hunter]

Pic 2: Map of the proposed route of the new road at the very northern end. The picture above was taken from roughly the top left end of the red area. You can see how the intention is for the new road to take a less tortuous bend round this curve [DFC map].

Pic 3: At the southern end of the scheme, this is site clearance work underway in the grounds of Castle Tower School (here) on 25 Feb 2020, looking north. Its existing boundary is on the right, and the new boundary is the wooden fence being built on the left. This part of the road is a new-build, though it extends and upgrades the existing access road to the school behind the camera. [Ian Hunter]

Pic 4: Continuing forward into the view in pic 3, and then turning round to look back south again with the school behind the fence on the right. The building in the distance is the cinema. The works here unfortunately involve felling a number of mature trees (here), which has now been completed, while the woodland on the left remains intact. The new road will run along the line visible here. 25 Feb 2020. [Ian Hunter]

27 Dec 2018: The ISNI web site had indicated that this scheme would go out to tender in autumn 2018 but that did not happen, probably because of the interregnum at Stormont. The site has now been updated to state that the scheme will go out to tender in December 2019 with construction then due to take place between March 2020 and March 2021. It should be noted that this, too, is probably contingent on a return to Stormont so I would not regard it has a particularly meaningful timescale at this point. The scheme also seems to be broken down into two components - the "northern link road", connecting to the A42, and the "southern link road", connecting to the A26. It is possible therefore that the link road may be constructed in phases.