Magherafelt is one of a number of bypasses needed in NI

Morning View
Morning View

The Magherafelt bypass opening yesterday marks another important step forward in the road infrastructure of Northern Ireland.

Gradually over the recent decades, a number of congested towns have been made less busy by the opening of bypasses or relief roads, such as at Comber, Newtownards and Strabane.

The Magherafelt scheme is perhaps the most important opening since the unveiling of the Toome bypass, on the Belfast to Londonderry A6 road in 2004.

It was a bottleneck on that intercity route, causing a traffic problem that was tedious for inhabitants and travellers alike.

The £35 million A31 road at Magherafelt is expected to remove 50,000 vehicles a week from the Co Londonderry town.

Building such a new road is money well spent.

But Northern Ireland needs many more such bypasses, of towns ranging from Downpatrick in Co Down to Cullybackey in Co Antrim to Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh.

Plans for bypasses at Ballynahinch in Co Down and Dungiven, another A6 bottleneck, are at an advanced stage.

These schemes both make the towns more pleasant for residents and long distance transport easier and more efficient.

They are pieces of infrastructure that survive for decades, if not centuries and so are an important use of taxpayer cash.

There are other longer road schemes that are also worthy of major investment, such as the A5 and A6 roads.

The dualling of a four-mile section of the A26 route north of Glarryford is at an advanced stage of construction and is expected to be completed by next year.

Dual carriageways with controlled junctions are far safer than single carriageway roads, so there are significant safety reasons for upgrade too.

The Magherafelt opening is cause for celebration.

Work needs to begin on many other schemes, and plans should be drawn up for many more too.