Leading article

Safety must be the priority on the A1

Twice in two days the main road link between Belfast and Dublin has been closed due to traffic accidents, placing the spotlight once again on the safety of this key route.

The A1 was closed yesterday for a time after a lorry overturned into the southbound lane at Loughbrickland, following a collision with two cars on the northbound side.

Police said there were believed to be no serious injuries.

On Wednesday afternoon, two people were taken to hospital after a lorry was in collision with a car in the northbound lane near the junction with Camlough Road.

As a result of that incident, the road was closed throughout the night but within hours of its reopening, the second crash took place.

The fact that two such serious collisions took place within a short period of time is clearly a cause for concern.

Thankfully, on this occasion, there were no fatalities.

However, the A1 has a very poor record in terms of safety and repeated calls have been made for improvements to be made to this road link, which is crucial to the economy.

Ideally, this road would have been entirely motorway, which was how it was originally envisaged back in the 1960s.

However, it has evolved into a dual carriageway from Sprucefield to Newry, now rather overshadowed by the Republic's investment on the southern side of the border which has seen journey times cut to Dublin.

Many dual carriageways are generally safe but the problem with the A1 is the fact that there are a number of points along its length which allow vehicles to turn right across the central reservation, significantly raising the risk of accidents taking place.

Indeed, a number of fatal collisions have occurred at these crossing points.

It would be unthinkable for a car or lorry to be able to drive across the central reservation of a motorway and given the speed and number of vehicles involved, it should not be permitted on the A1.

There are plans in place for crossing points on the Belfast to Newry road to be closed up but campaigners for road safety have been critical of the slow progress on this issue.

The Department for Infrastructure said recently that proposals 'to further improve road safety for all road users on the A1 are currently being developed.'

It is not clear if completion of the work depends on having a functioning executive but it is well recognised that this carriageway urgently needs upgrading.

It is not only essential to keep traffic flowing, but all practical measures must be taken to ensure the safety of road users.

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