Time not yet right for York Street Interchange

I wrote a short time ago on why the York Street Interchange and the Sydenham Bypass upgrade should be carried out jointly.

In practice, it is clear that this means the money would not be in the budget to complete the project this decade. This is no bad thing, for two main reasons.

Firstly, it is already risky to be carrying out the (already flawed) A6 Randalstown-Castledawson upgrade (given it is on the same broad northwestern corridor that ends at York Street) at the same time, as is currently proposed. Indeed, adding in the A5 Derry-Strabane project leads some to doubt the construction capacity exists to do all of these at once (I am instinctively not so pessimistic, but also no expert – so I have to consider this problem as at least possible).

Secondly, we have to consider the congestion which will be caused by the roadworks, not just at the Interchange itself but across the whole of Greater Belfast (anyone caught in last month’s two-hour jam will attest to the fact the Interchange is a pinch point affecting the whole city and its environs).

Specifically, it strikes me that construction should be postponed from its currently proposed September 2017 start date until at least until the A6 upgrade is complete and the Belfast Rapid Transit system is in operation. This latter is a guided bus system (the one for which the notorious “bus lanes” have been put in place) which will offer a more reliable public transport service along corridors not served by trains, and which will serve to relieve congestion. Having been delayed, it is now due for commencement in September 2018, but it will take some further time for gremlins to be nudged out of the system so that it has the full desired effect.

Another consideration is that, although York Street is a congestion pinch point, it is not fundamentally unsafe. Only this month we saw another tragic fatality at a gap junction on a major interurban dual carriageway (the two main examples of this are the A1 Hillsborough-Newry and A26 Antrim-Ballymena). If the money currently allocated to major road projects were allocated to the A5 and A6 as proposed but not yet to the York Street project, money would be available instantly to construct the five safer grade-separated junctions on the A1 planned as far south as Banbridge, and to plan those necessary on the A26 and A1 between Loughbrickland and Newry. The focus in the early ’20s would then become closure of all gaps, and then construction of the York Street Interchange alongside the Sydenham Bypass upgrade at a time when Greater Belfast and its motorway and mass transit corridors are better prepared for the traffic disturbance caused.

This would, of course, require strategic thinking. Whatever next?!

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3 thoughts on “Time not yet right for York Street Interchange

  1. John F says:

    Good reasoning, but I’m not sure the Sydenham bypass can wait that long, though the road has lasted longer than I thought it would since it has looked in bad shape for as long as I remember. If the Sydenham bypass upgrade is being put on hold (which I assume would include better cycle lanes), then they’ll need to think of a new East Belfast to Holywood cycle route, which is badly needed.

    • That point is well made.

      I am only going off DRD’s own timetable, which has A6 Randalstown, A5 Strabane, A12 York Street and the A1 junction upgrades ready to go, and then projects like A2 Sydenham in the best tranche (i.e. after 2020/21).

      I attended an exhibition in the A2 Sydenham proposals as a Cllr, thus not later than 2011 (and I suspect somewhat before that), so I expected it to be higher priority by now than it is.

  2. […] Infrastructure Minister announced last week that the York Street Interchange project – to remove the traffic lights linking the M2 and M3 to the A12 – was now “on […]

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