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Newry Bypass opens months ahead of schedule

August 3, 2010


by Brónagh Murphy

The final stretch of the Newry bypass officially opened to traffic on Thursday, five months ahead of schedule and at a cost of £150m.

Roads Minister Conor Murphy formally opened the 7.5-mile Beech Hill to Cloghogue phase, accompanied by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and DUP junior minister Robin Newton.

Mr Murphy said the project is the “final link on the key strategic route between Belfast and Dublin on Ireland’s Eastern Seaboard and makes a substantial positive contribution to the social and economic wellbeing of our communities both north and south.”

“The A1 also provides access, via Newry, to the port of Warrenpoint, one of our strategically important regional gateways and convenient road connections to the cities of Lisburn and Newry and the towns of Dromore, Banbridge, Dundalk and Drogheda,” Mr Murphy continued.

“This project has been successfully completed five months ahead of schedule and it will significantly improve journey times and safety for all. I am sure, like me, many of you have watched with interest and anticipation this new stretch of dual carriageway take shape and are now looking forward to actually travelling on it and experiencing the important benefits that it will provide. ”

The scheme involved substantial rock cuttings with 1.2 million tonnes of rock excavated to make way for the new dual carriageway. In line with current good construction practice, all of this material was processed on site and used in the construction of the new road. Over two million man hours were successfully worked on the project, which employed 500 people at the peak of the scheme.

The scheme includes five flyover-type junctions and 17 new bridges including a 190m long viaduct carrying the new dual carriageway over the Newry River, the Canal and the Tandragee Road.

Environmental considerations have been an important aspect of this project, not least because of its location on the outskirts of the city of Newry and on the boundary of the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The scheme includes mitigating measures relating to noise, landscaping, water quality and the protection of vulnerable animals. Motorists now have new views across this attractive landscape, including views of the impressive 18-arch Craigmore Viaduct on the nearby Belfast – Dublin railway line.

Minister Murphy thanked Roads Service, Amey Lagan Roads, Lagan Construction and Ferrovial Agroman Ltd for their work completing the scheme ahead of schedule and also the local community for their assistance during the development and construction of the scheme.

Planning

The completion of the last main stretch between Belfast and Dublin brings to an end years of planning and construction work on both sides of the border and enables motorists to enjoy high-speed roads all the way between the two cities.

The only two stops on the entire route are roundabouts at Sprucefield and the toll bridge at Drogheda.  And motorists are reaping the rewards with journey times as it is estimated the travel time between Belfast and Dublin could be cut by more than ten minutes, taking it to around ninety minutes.

The construction company behind the final section of the new Belfast to Dublin road said they hoped motorists would enjoy the benefits of the new route.

The contractors – Lagan Construction and Ferrovial – said they had encountered “many engineering, environmental and safety risks” during the project.  This included the removal of 1.2 million tonnes of rock, mainly by blasting, and managing 20,000 vehicles per day through the works.

“The contract has been delivered five months ahead of schedule and although there have been difficult periods due to weather and other challenges, Lagan Ferrovial are pleased to be the main contractor, as part of the wider team in bringing the project to fruition as the final link between Belfast and Dublin,” a spokesperson for the company said.

“We take great satisfaction and pride in the engineering feats associated with this project, the fantastic safety record, the finished product and the excellent relationships built up from within our team and the wider consultees including our designers.  We look forward to the benefits that the general public will now realise from this engineering feat.

UUP MLA Danny Kennedy said he is ‘delighted’ at the opening of the road, describing it as a ‘red letter day’ for Newry.

“After many years of campaigning for the development of this section of road, I am delighted to see it officially opened.  We now have a new stretch of carriageway that will make a substantial difference to the local area.

“I would like to congratulate Lagan Ferrovial and all the sub-contractors and the departmental officials who through their hard work and commitment, have brought this project to a successful conclusion,” he added.

Speaking at the opening, the SDLP’s P. J. Bradley says that the input from Seamus Mallon and Eddie McGrady must not be forgotten.

“In the early days it was a struggle to convince the authorities that the development of the cross border route was completely essential. Thankfully the persistence of Newry

and Mourne District Council and of our Members of Parliament at that time, Seamus Mallon and Eddie McGrady, and the understanding of a new and forward thinking group of Roads Service officials, the early-day campaigns have finally paid great dividends for the South Down and South Armagh areas,” Mr Bradley said.

“Of course, leaving our parochial interests aside, the economy of the island of Ireland will be the real beneficiary now that the main route linking our two major cities is complete.  Personally I am delighted that the day has finally arrived that the vision of yesteryear is now a reality.”

‘Good news for traders’

Cathal Austin, vice-chairman of Newry Chamber of Commerce and manager of the Quays Shopping Centre, said the opening of the bypass was good news for traders in the city.

He said heavy vehicles could now bypass Newry, easing traffic on the roads and providing more car parking space.

“It puts about three million people within 40 minutes drive of Newry,” Mr Austin said.

“Newry in the past has notoriously been a bottle-neck that has frustrated the life out of travellers between Belfast and Dublin and that bottle-neck is now at Sprucefield.  I think people will get fed up at that bottle-neck and will take the detour into Newry.”


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