The A1 from Sprucefield to Newry shows why NI needs expressways

Morning View
Morning View

Highways England, the new body that will look after roads in England, plans to turn some of that country’s major A-roads into expressways.

That might not at first glance seem to have much relevance to Northern Ireland. But it should do.

Expressways are free-flowing roads (ie no traffic lights or roundabouts) that have a central barrier that makes right turns impossible.

They are the safest types of road around, because they eliminate the most dangerous manoeuvres on the road: overtaking or turning right in the face of oncoming traffic.

Expressways are known as mini motorways because they have many of the best characteristics of motorways but are not as big or expensive to build.

Expressways exist across Europe but the UK — with its vast network of dangerous, twisting single-carriageway rural roads — has nowhere near enough of them.

Northern Ireland needs many more miles of expressway.

If you want to see the sort of dual carriageway that should be consigned to the dustbin, you only need to drive down the A1 between Sprucefield and Newry.

It is not an expressway, and has countless deadly gap junctions in the central reservation in which tractors and lorries cut across intercity traffic travelling at motorway speeds. The good news is that there are plans to upgrade most of the A1 to expressway, but they are taking an age to come to fruition.

A fine example of an expressway is the upgraded A4 between Dungannon and Ballygawley.

Other routes that need to become expressway include the A6 to Londonderry, the A26 to Coleraine, and the A4 to Enniskillen. There are plans to upgrade much of those routes.

Expressways help cut death tolls, reduce driver frustration and boost the economy by moving goods more quickly. They are a better spend of taxpayers’ cash than the £100 million annual top-up fund that Sinn Fein has won for welfare.