THE £189m A6 Randalstown to Castledawson Dualling Scheme has been officially opened after the final works were completed over the weekend, with local people and landowners thanked for their patience over the last four years.
The project which upgraded 14.7 kilometres of the A6 North Western Transport Corridor between Randalstown and Castledawson commenced in June 2017 and the Antrim Guardian was on site for several of the most important milestones.
After years of hard work, diversions, road closures and rural roads being re-routed, on Saturday May 29 and Sunday May 30, the final works to remove the remaining cones and temporary traffic management arrangements were completed and by Monday May 31 the entire 14.7km of the road was open for road users with national speed limits in place.
Around 22,000 vehicles use the main route between Belfast and Londonderry on a daily basis.
Legal challenges to stop or re-configure the works to protect whooper swan breeding habitats were unsuccessful.
During a visit to the area to congratulate all those involved in delivering the scheme, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: “This is an exciting time for road users, the local community and all those involved in delivering the A6 Randalstown to Castledawson scheme as we celebrate the completion of works.
“I’m delighted to have the opportunity today to meet some of those who have worked tirelessly on this project over the past four years.
“In August 2019 and again in November 2020, stretches of the new dual carriageway were completed and gradually opened to the travelling public.
“This has already brought significant benefits for road users.
“Car users, freight and public transport services along this route will benefit from shorter, safer and more reliable journey times.
“Crucially this will also allow our emergency services to achieve faster response times when assisting our citizens in need.
“The scheme has also helped to secure jobs in the construction industry, with the vast majority of construction spend going directly to the local economy.
“Significantly, the project provided local employment opportunities for education leavers and the long term unemployed as well as training placements for apprentices and students across a number of disciplines.”
Minister Mallon added: “I want to acknowledge the impact of the works on residents, landowners, businesses and road users.
“Delivering extensive improvements to the roads infrastructure cannot be done without causing significant disruption.
“I am sure at times this has been very frustrating, particularly for those living in the vicinity of the works, so I want to thank the local community for their cooperation and understanding over the past four years.
“I hope that everyone will see the wider benefits this road is now providing.
“A project of this size and significance requires partnership working across a number of organisations to ensure it runs smoothly.
“The job of constructing such a major piece of Infrastructure is no mean feat and two of our largest contractors, Graham Construction and Farrans, have worked together in a Joint Venture along with our consultants AECOM, designers ARUP and Roughan & O’Donovan and many sub-contractors and suppliers to deliver this project.
“I am also very grateful for the input from public sector partners.”
Leo Martin, Board Director of Graham Farrans said that the completion of the project will ‘unlock’ a huge infrastructure route for the North West Transport Corridor.
“Since first breaking ground in summer 2017, we have overcome multiple engineering challenges and managed the project through strategic weekend closures to maximise safety and productivity throughout the project.” he said.
“This has been a huge scheme that has brought the scope and breadth of our civil engineering expertise into sharp focus.
“I would like to thank all stakeholders involved in the project for their tremendous efforts and to the public and businesses on the route for their patience and cooperation while we were improving this important highway.”