The ‘Regional Development Strategy 2025’ and the supporting ‘Regional Transportation Plan for Northern Ireland 2002-2012’ set out the vision for the spatial growth of Northern Ireland and the need for this to be supported by a fit for-purpose strategic road network, writes David Porter
Civil

Those who have travelled between Belfast and Derry/Londonderry in the last few years will have noticed that there is very significant improvement works ongoing. This route is one of the Key Transport Corridors (KTC) in Northern Ireland and this status was established in early 2000 with the publication of the ‘Regional Development Strategy 2025’ and the supporting ‘Regional Transportation Plan for Northern Ireland 2002-2012’.

These documents set out the vision for the spatial growth of Northern Ireland and the need for this to be supported by a fit for-purpose strategic road network. Since the publication of the transport plan there have been many hundreds of millions of pounds spent on the KTCs and currently the construction activity is focused on the A6.

There are two active sites, one between the top of the M22 at Randalstown to the Castledawson roundabout, and further north between Dungiven and Drumahoe on the outskirts of Derry/Londonderry. These projects are known as the ‘A6RC’ and ‘A6D2D’ respectively.

The A6RC project


The £185 million project will upgrade 14.7km of the A6 northwestern transport corridor between Randalstown and Castledawson to a high-quality dual carriageway. The project is in two parts: 7.3km between Randalstown and Toome and 7.4km between Toome and Castledawson.

The draft statutory orders for the scheme were published in March 2007 and a public inquiry was held in November of that year. The construction contract was awarded to Graham Farrans Joint Venture (GFJV) in May 2015.

The contract included early contractor involvement (ECI) to enable the design element of the works to be advanced as funding for the construction works had yet to be secured.

The then infrastructure minister Chris Hazzard MLA announced his decision to proceed with the A6 Randalstown to Castledawson dualling scheme vesting order in August 2016 and the main contract commenced in June 2017.

This scheme has not been without controversy as part of the route passes close to Lough Beg which has national and international environmental designations as they support more than 20,000 waterfowl including over wintering Whooper swans and Bewick’s swans.

As part of the scheme development the department carried out extensive research and consultation to ensure that the new dual carriageway does not unduly upset the ecologically important wetlands around Lough Beg.

The impact on Whooper swans in particular became the subject to challenge in the courts. The judgment supported the department and was subsequently appealed to the high Ccurt.

Again the department’s position was confirmed and the scheme was found to be lawful. Application was then made to the Supreme Court to overturn this judgement but as there was no new point in law this was not accepted.

The works are progressing well and the first phase of the route will be open to traffic this summer with completion of the whole 14.7km due in 2021.

The A6D2D project


The £220 million project will upgrade 30km of the A6 between Derry and Dungiven to high quality dual carriageway and includes a dual carriageway bypass of Dungiven.

The statutory orders were published in January 2011 and in September 2012 a public inquiry was held. In January 2017 Minister Hazzard announced that the department should take forward the procurement of the 25.5km section of the A6 Derry to Dungiven dualling scheme between Dungiven and Drumahoe.

The contract for the construction of this phase was awarded in March 2018 to a joint venture between Sacyr, Wills Bros Ltd, Somague (SWS JV). This was a new JV involving the Spanish, Irish and Portuguese companies.

The existing road carries about 15,000 vehicles per day and with traffic levels continuing to grow, this very significant investment from the department will greatly improve road safety and journey times by reducing congestion.

Construction commenced in September 2018 with completion due by 2022. In contrast to the A6RC there were no significant environmental objections to this scheme.

The construction of these schemes will help to secure jobs in the construction industry, contribute to the economic development of the region and bring long term benefits to road users and local communities.

That said there is, however, need for continued investment in the strategic transportation network and the department is currently refreshing the Regional Transportation Plan. A significant part of this is an updated ‘Regional Strategic Transport Network Transport Plan’ or RSTNTP for short!

This document will build on the advances already made on the KTCs, such as the works on the A6, and will seek to support the future growth of Northern Ireland and indeed the whole island of Ireland.

In my role as divisional roads manager I am responsible for the delivery of these two strategic road improvement schemes along with the day-to-day operation and management of a 5,853km road network in the northern division.

I have worked in construction throughout my whole career including holding the position of chief executive of DfI Rivers Agency, the flood defence and drainage authority for Northern Ireland, and previously the posts of director of development and director of operations within the agency.

I am a chartered civil engineer and a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers and I am hugely proud of the engineering profession and the benefits we bring to society. In November of last year I received the Engineers Ireland President’s Award from Peter Quinn.

I was deeply honoured to receive this award particularly as it was presented by Peter Quinn who I hold in such high regard as he is an excellent engineer and president. It was humbling to have my leadership and skills as a civil engineer recognised by Engineers Ireland.

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/a1-2-1024x441.pnghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/a1-2-300x300.pngDavid O'RiordanCivilBelfast,construction,Derry
Those who have travelled between Belfast and Derry/Londonderry in the last few years will have noticed that there is very significant improvement works ongoing. This route is one of the Key Transport Corridors (KTC) in Northern Ireland and this status was established in early 2000 with the publication of...