Good news for commuters as new A6 from Toome to Randalstown to open next week
A long-awaited dual carriageway tackling a notorious traffic bottleneck is set to open next week.
The 7km stretch of the A6 between Toome and Randalstown is part a £185m scheme designed to reduce travel times between Derry and Belfast.
Up to 20,000 vehicles use the route every day, which currently sees long delays for commuters joining and leaving the M2/M22 at rush-hour.
But while the opening on Monday will be hugely welcome news for many motorists, the Department for Infrastructure last night confirmed that some traffic restrictions will remain.
It said that as “part of the phased traffic management plan” motorists “will still be merged into one lane in each direction in the vicinity of the M22 Junction 3”.
An existing two-lane traffic system in the area regularly produces daily traffic delays.
A spokesman for the department last night said a 50mph restriction will be in place “for a distance of several hundred metres, after which traffic will have unrestricted use of the new dual carriageway”.
Work will continue for four weeks and when that is completed the Toome to Randalstown section will be formally opened.
The DfI spokesman said the opening of “seven kilometres of new dual carriageway is a positive step forward in the project and welcome news for the 20,000 vehicles using the route each day”.
“The flagship project will strengthen the links between Belfast and the north west and will bring long term benefits to road users and the local community,” he said.
A separate section of the scheme between Toome and Castledawson has proven to be contentious in the past.
Environmentalists have voiced concern about the impact construction will have on protected Whooper swans, which travel to local wetlands each year.
The area, which is close to Lough Beg, was made famous by the poetry of Seamus Heaney who before his death urged authorities to use an alternative route for the planned road.
Some local people had also expressed concern after saying they were told that the remains of an old settlement was discovered in an area known locally as Aughrim Hill after an archaeological dig.
A spokeswoman for the department later said “nothing of archaeological significance has been identified”.
The site is close to where what is believed to be a Mesolithic settlement was discovered in 2016.
The Mesolithic period dates between 5,000 - 10,000 years ago in north-west Europe.