The chief executive of Roads Service (Dr Malcolm McKibbin) has written to the noble Lord in response to this Question.
Letter from Dr Malcolm McKibbin to Lord Laird
You recently asked Her Majesty's Government a Parliamentary Question regarding what proposals they have to improve the safety of the road from Sprucefield to the Irish border.
I have been asked to reply as this issue falls within my responsibility as chief executive of Roads Service.
I am pleased to be able to advise that Roads Service has a substantial programme of work aimed at improving both the reliability of journey times and safety on the A1 Sprucefield to the border key strategic route. This programme, which is contained in the Regional Strategic Transport Network Transport Plan 2015, published in March 2005, and in proposals for Expanding the Strategic Road Improvement Programme 2015, published for consultation in July 2006, includes plans to upgrade the whole route to dual carriageway standard; undertake improvements at selected junctions; and provide a safety barrier in the central reservation.
You will be aware that a nine kilometre stretch of dual carriageway between Loughbrickland and Beech Hill, costing £25 million, was opened to traffic in November last year.
Construction work is currently under way to upgrade a five kilometre portion of the road between Cloghogue and the border. This is part of the A1/N1 Newry to Dundalk link road cross-border project costing an estimated £33 million which is expected to be completed later this year. This will be a high-standard dual carriageway with a continuous safety barrier and one grade-separated junction.
Plans to provide a 12 kilometre high-standard dual carriageway from Beech Hill to Cloghogue, estimated to cost £109 million, are well advanced. These will incorporate a continuous safety barrier along the length of the scheme with access being provided at five strategically located flyover-type junctions. Construction work is expected to begin in the spring, with completion in 2009. When provided, this scheme will complete the dualling of the route from Sprucefield to the border.
Two junction improvement schemes have recently been completed on the A1. A new underpass was opened in June 2005, at a cost of £3.5 million, at Hillsborough Road at the northern end of the Dromore bypass, and a new flyover was opened in March 2004, at a cost of £4.5 million, at Rathfriland Road on the Banbridge bypass.
Plans for the construction of four further junction improvement schemes over the next three years, at a cost of £16 million, are also well advanced. A new flyover is planned for Dromore Road at the southern end of the Hillsborough bypass, while a new underpass is planned for Banbridge Road at the southern end of the Dromore bypass. A second new flyover is planned for Dromore Road at the northern end of the Banbridge bypass and a second new underpass is planned for Dublin Road at the southern end of the Loughbrickland bypass. I can also advise that the developer of the Bridgewater Outlet Centre at Banbridge is providing a new flyover at Newry Road, at Yellow Hill, at the southern end of the Banbridge bypass.
In our Expanding the Strategic Road Improvement Programme 2015 consultation document, we have included two further proposals for the A1. A four kilometre high-standard dual carriageway, estimated to cost £45 million, is proposed to link the M1 motorway to the A1 at Hillsborough. This will bypass the Sprucefield Retail Centre and will include a flyover at Hillsborough roundabout. Four more flyover junctions, estimated to cost £22 million, are also proposed between Hillsborough and Banbridge, which, together with the provision of a continuous central safety barrier between Hillsborough and Loughbrickland, will upgrade this section of the route to a higher-standard dual carriageway with no at-grade crossings.
These proposals represent a substantial investment of more than £250 million, of which £33 million has already been completed; £33 million is under construction; £125 million is expected to be constructed over the next three years; and a further £67 million is proposed in the Expanding the Strategic Road Improvement Programme 2015 consultation document.