Editorial: New 16-mile A6 Dungiven bypass is key part of route to the North West and a huge advance for Northern Ireland's road infrastructure
It is no exaggeration to say that the opening of the Dungiven bypass is one of the most important moments in the history of Northern Ireland infrastructure.
The new stretch of road is in fact relatively short. But it puts in place one of the last key elements of the route between Belfast and Londonderry.
For the entirety of NI’s existence of more than a century there has been a basic road route between the Province’s two biggest cities.
Right until now it has been possible, indeed likely, that fast-moving inter-city traffic will get caught behind tractors, in much the same way that traffic between Belfast and Dublin was still getting caught behind tractors until the last stretch of that route was dualled little more than a decade ago.
It is absurd for roads between major urban areas to have stayed so basic well into the 21s century. It is dangerous too, because it means that car drivers get frustrated and are tempted to try the most deadly manoeuvre on the roads, overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic.
Motorways and dual carriageways with barriers in the central reservation slash death tolls, as has happened on a number of key NI routes: the A1, the A4, the A26 and now the A6 to the Northwest.
The opening of the Dungiven bypass means that almost the entire Belfast-Londonderry route is of a high standard. There is a stretch on either side of the Glenshane Pass that remains single carriageway but the uphill sections have passing lanes, and the overall traffic levels at those points is low.
There now needs to be a proper dual carriageway that passes the Maiden City and links up with the main roads into Donegal.
But it is wrong to say that the NW has been neglected. In fact traffic levels on the A6 have been low, which is a key reason why the costly upgrades took so long.