MP wants upgrade as part of bypass scheme

MP wants upgrade as part of bypass scheme

17 February 2021

THE importance of upgrading one of the main approach roads to Ballynahinch as part of the town’s new multi-million pound bypass project has been highlighted by South Down MP Chris Hazzard.

Stormont roads minister Nichola Mallon has included the near two-mile project in a list of strategic projects that will be progressed during the current financial year.

With the Ballynahinch bypass effectively ready to proceed, all eyes are on the confirmation of a start date for the eagerly awaited scheme to link the Newcastle and Saintfield roads, with the new road designed to alleviate chronic town centre congestion and along the main approach routes to the town.

Mr Hazzard is keen to see the bypass delivered as soon as possible and has written to Mrs Mallon urging her to include an upgrade of the Downpatrick Road as part of the multi-million investment.

A major new roundabout is planned at the Downpatrick Road junction with the Drumaness Road as part of the bypass project, but the area is in need of an upgrade.

There are concerns about a number of potholes and the general condition of this stretch of road, with Mr Hazzard highlighting the need to ensure that one of the main roads that will connect to the bypass is fit for purpose.  

“With the Ballynahinch to Downpatrick route becoming an increasingly busy one for heavy goods vehicles connecting to Downpatrick from the M1 at Lisburn and Sprucefield, the Downpatrick Road has suffered badly in recent years, both in terms of wear and tear. Unfortunately, there has also been an increase in road collisions,” the MP continued.

“There is no doubt that in various locations along this busy route that both the road surface and overall layout is at best tired, and at worst dangerous.”

Mr Hazzard said that over the winter months there had been a significant increase in the number of commuters contacting his office about damage done to their vehicles due to broken road surfaces. 

“It is simply not acceptable that a strategically important route such as the Downpatrick Road has been allowed to fall into such a poorly maintained state in places,” he continued.

“The bypass route also includes a number of dangerous junctions such as the Cumber Road and several tight crossing points such as bridges, yet warning signage is poor at best. This must also be addressed as a matter of priority.”

Mr Hazzard confirmed that he has written to the roads ministers outlining his concerns and hopes that improvements will be integrated into the bypass plan.

Never before has the Ballynahinch bypass been accorded such a high priority by the Department of Infrastructure. A second major roundabouts is proposed at the Belfast Road junction with the Saintfield Road, with a new bridge constructed over the Moss Road. 

Overtaking lanes stretching almost 900 metres are proposed at either end of the by-pass where the major new roundabouts are to be constructed, with the scheme also including a shared footpath and cycle lane.

The bypass is the single biggest road scheme ever proposed for the district with suggestions that it will take at least 18 months to construct.

Roads officials insist that the scheme will reduce journey times and improve road safety. 

Last November, Newry, Mourne and Down councillors appealed the roads minister to commit the money required to build the pound bypass when they met with senior roads officials.

The bypass is the single biggest road scheme ever proposed for the district with suggestions that it will take at least 18 months to construct, with roads officials insisting that the scheme will reduce journey times and improve road safety. 

Last June, the roads minister included the bypass in a list of strategic projects expected to progress during the current financial year, with the local scheme — which could cost up to £50m — ready to proceed.

At the time, roads officials said the bypass was now at an “advanced stage of development” and that preparatory work on contract documentation had been completed.

Officials said the roads minister had asked them to complete the work necessary to allow her to make the so-called ‘direction order’ which included reviewing environmental reports.