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The A1 Phase 2 Road Improvement Scheme was discussed at last weeks Stormont Executive Infrastructure Committee Meeting with Department for Infrastructure officials giving details of the project and taking questions from MLA's about a road which has seen many tragedies over the years with some sections seeing 40,000 vehicles a day.

The A1 at Loughbrickland. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Speaking of the background to the scheme Liam McEvoy, Department for Infrastructure said "That section, 25km section of the A1 has been designed and constructed to much older standards and as a result it has characteristics that would be no longer desirable and is presenting safety issues. In particular there is over 100 gaps in the central reserve of this 25km stretch and those gaps in the central reserve, at the moment traffic can currently turn right or make u-turns and conflict with other mainline traffic along there, and it's the presence of these gaps that presents to a high number and severity of accidents along this stretch of the A1. This project will aim to close up all those gaps in the central reserve between Hillsborough and Loughbrickland." 

Mr McEvoy explained the scheme said it would see four additional Grade separated junctions. Six existing minor roads will be linked to a grade separated junction while 21 remaining minor roads will be reconfigured as left in/ left out only. Nine minor roads will be closed up. On the stretch there are currently also 174 private and agricultural accesses which the scheme plans to reduce to 127 which will operate as left in/ left out only. 

The scheme doesn't include the road south of Loughbrickland. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Newry and Armagh MLA, Liz Kimmins speaking at the meeting said "I very much welcome the progress that's being made in this scheme, and I just want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Monica Heaney who following the death of her son Karl on the A1 in 2018 has had a massive campaign, and it I think has played no small part in getting to this stage today"

MLA Cathal Boylan welcomed the progress but wanted to know "what exactly is the time frame." In reply John Irvine, DFI said "From a positive decision to move to procurement, it's probably 18 months to 2 years to procure and then we reckon it's probably 3 years to build the whole scheme."

Speaking on the suggested time frame Ms Kimmins added "Officials have indicated that, with 18 months of procurement and three years of construction, it could take approximately five years following a commitment to proceed with the scheme, for the upgrade to be fully delivered. For many, this time frame will feel like a long time for the delivery of road safety improvements required to save lives. I welcome the progress made to date on this scheme but will continue to press for no unnecessary delays and for the absolute prioritisation of this crucially important scheme."

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