There is some discussion about the extent to which the latest announcement of a partial A6 road upgrade is actually ‘new’.
The stretch west of Randalstown had clearly been marked for overhaul for many months, even though there was no confirmed start time.
One thing is clear though: the progress in upgrading the main road between Northern Ireland’s two biggest cities has been painfully slow. It will be many years, probably more than a decade, before the entire Belfast to Londonderry route is either a motorway or a high quality dual carriageway.
It is, however, good news that the so-called A6 Moneynick Road is finally going to be turned into an expressway.
While there are other parts of the route that need urgent attention, such as the proposed Dungiven bypass, the Moneynick stretch, between the western end of the M22 and Toome, is a particularly dangerous and inadequate part of the road.
It is one of four very dangerous single carriageway roads on major inter-urban routes that have long been in need of widening for safety reasons alone – the A1 south of Loughbrickland, the A4 west of Dungannon and the A26 north of Glarryford. The A1 and A4 (to Ballygawley) have now been upgraded and work on the A26 is under way, which will be dualled as far as the A44 Drones Road turn-off for Ballycastle.
It is important, when the rest of the A6 is dualled, that the plans are implemented all the way to the A2 road, so bypassing a cluttered part of the route on either side of Altnagelvin Hospital on the outskirts of Londonderry. Ideally it would link on to a cross-border dual to Letterkenny, to replace that busy single carriageway, but there are other higher priorities for funding in Northern Ireland: the A5, Belfast’s York Street interchange, the A26 (between the M1-M2 past Aldergrove) and bypasses of Augher, Clogher and Fivemiletown on the A4.
The money is there – there is still a lot of inefficient Stormont spending that the main parties seem reluctant to tackle.