The opening of the large Applegreen service station on the M1 might not seem much of an event.
It is, after all, no more than a collection of petrol pumps and shops and restaurants. But it is the elementary nature of the services that makes the opening all the more significant. This basic facility for motorists was lacking from our two most important roads, the M1 and the M2, for up to half a century (more than that in the case of the M1).
One reason why there was long no place for traffic to stop and rest and refuel on our motorways is the Troubles. The 38-mile M1 opened in stages between 1962 and 1968, while most of the M2 opened in the 1970s.
But by the time the latter road was completed there was little spare money for such infrastructure, because so much public cash was being spent on the security situation.
Another reason for the lack of stations is the smallness of Northern Ireland. Anyone who had driven on the two motorways knew there were no stops and knew to refuel elsewhere.
But that is little use to visitors to the Province. Motorists from Great Britain or mainland Europe might have assumed such provision and some perhaps had a nasty surprise if they ran low on fuel.
Now, after yesterday’s opening near Lisburn, there are places to stop on the countrybound lanes out of Belfast on both the M1 and M2. Travelling by car or lorry has just become that little bit more comfortable and safer.
There is now a motorway or dual carriageway the entire distance from Glarryford north of Ballymena to the western edge of the ring road that loops to the south of Cork.
There are further service stations en route to Dublin, although still a dearth of them on the Dublin to Cork motorway.
When the A5, A6 and A26 upgrades are all complete, Northern Ireland’s road network will be markedly improved on a decade ago. There is, however, need for further stopping points directly off all of these routes.