Newry.ie

Over ten years after the A1 Beech Hill to Cloghogue dual carriageway section opened, Phase Two of the project still hasn't happened.

This phase involves closing up all central reservation crossings between Hillsborough and Loughbrickland and grade separating remaining junctions  The scheme was first talked about in 2006!

Newry woman Monica Heaney has been relentlessly campaigning to make the road safer following the death of her son Karl on the road in 2018. Monica met with Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon in February with discussions including a number of interim measures that could possibly be undertaken to save time and improve the safety of this road untill the  construction phase begins. The Newry woman also spoke along with family members at a Public Inquiry into the scheme in March.

Measures discussed included the potential for the business case for the upgrade works to be undertaken at the same time as the procurement. Monica explains "As they are not linked and the costing will already have been done. This would save at least 9 Months."

Monica would also like the DFI to commence planning now for the next phase of the road which is to close up the cross over junctions on the stretch of road between Newry to Loughbrickland arguing that the Department can run other projects parallel so there is no reason they can't do it for this project.

She also would like to see safety measures put in place in the interim which at least would give drivers some protection and alert them to the dangers of the road. These could include the installation of a central reservation safety barrier between current gaps and the installation of Variable messaging signage to warn drivers or remind them of road issues.

July 2010 saw the last major work on the A1. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
July 2010 saw the last major work on the A1 with the opening of the Beech Hill to Cloghogue stretch. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The Minister in replying to a letter from Monica in June spoke of the business case saying "Officials will commence preparatory works on the Economic Appraisal and Business Case for the scheme shortly. I am however mindful of the importance of the Public Inquiry process and the Inspector’s consideration of the issues raised at the Public Inquiry, and as such, to maintain the integrity of the Public Inquiry process, these preparatory works will be subject to review and reconsideration when the Inspector’s report is received."

Speaking about the potential for interim road safety improvements the Minister added "I am advised that over the past 3 years, approximately 6.8km of new wire rope central median safety barrier has been installed and 17 central median gaps have been closed as part of a strategy for interim implementation of incremental road safety improvements in advance of the full A1 Junctions Phase 2 proposals.

"The Department has considered options for further installation of wire rope central median safety barrier or alternative temporary safety barriers at each of the remaining short sections in advance of closing the approximately 100 gaps which remain. However, if the gaps in the central median remain open to traffic, there are engineering and safety challenges, in particular the requirement to provide adequate forward visibility of oncoming traffic for right turning vehicles. Once I receive the Public Inquiry Inspector’s report, I will focus on exploring opportunities to progress implementation of further safety measures in advance of the main scheme."

Following the DFI reply Monica says that they are reassured that Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon is committed to bring this project forward as much as possible in her time as Minister.

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