Ben Lowry: Roads such as A5 and A26 need proper upgrade

Police at the scene of the fatal crash on the A26 Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia
Police at the scene of the fatal crash on the A26 Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

There has been yet another tragic fatality at a deadly dual carriageway ‘gap’ junction.

The accident, in which a woman was killed, happened at the Woodgreen junction on the A26 in Co Antrim. Someone died there last year.

A depressing aspect of the crash is that it was on a dual carriageway on the M2 to Ballymena route, that was upgraded only 15 years ago.

However, rather than flyover junctions it was built with ‘gap’ junctions, in which vehicles (including tractors and lorries) have to wait in the central reservation and cross oncoming traffic to turn right.

No new dual carriageways with high traffic levels on major inter urban routes should be built with these junctions.

If they are, traffic travelling at 70mph along the main route encounters vehicles coming in like darts from left and right.

Last year I wrote about a stretch of the A1 that opened in 2006 with such gap junctions, despite the fact that the southern sections of the same Belfast-Dublin route were being upgraded to motorway.

There are a number of key primary routes in Northern Ireland that should be upgraded fully to dual carriageway expressway standard, with no gaps in the reservation.

There are safety and efficiency reasons for such upgrades – the latter being that motorists on key long distance routes should have a reasonable expectation that they will not get caught behind tractors, and so tempted into the most dangerous manoeuvre on the road, which is overtaking.

Those routes are:

• A5 from Aughnacloy to Londonderry (some unionists fear the upgrade is a nationalist plot. If it is even such, which I doubt, the plot would fail)

• A6 Randalstown to Londonderry (it is important the scheme extends right to the A2 at the northwestern end)

• A4 Ideally to Enniskillen but at least dual carriageway (not single) bypasses of Augher, Clogher and Fivemiletown

• A26 Ideally the whole way to Coleraine (but the minimum needed upgrade as far as the A44 is already under way)

• A dual linking the M2 to the M1 passing by Aldergrove

• A road to the southeast of Belfast (roughly Dundonald to Lisburn). I favour upgrading the current ‘outer ring’ and Hillhall Rd but all options would be controversial. The roads expert Wesley Johnston suggests an entirely new road.

Don’t believe people who say there is no money for those schemes.

Slightly curbing Northern Ireland’s vast spend on Disability Living Allowance alone, let alone our overall unreformed welfare, would free up hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is deputy editor of the News Letter

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