THE first phase of the flagship A6 Randalstown to Castledawson dualling scheme has been officially opened.
The £185million scheme to upgrade almost 15 kilometres of the A6 North Western Transport Corridor between Randalstown and Castledawson is being delivered in two phases.
Traffic was allowed to use a 7 kilometre stretch of the Randalstown to Toome dual carriageway for the first time in August, however, lane and speed restrictions remained in place while works to tie in the new dual carriageway to the existing road network were constructed.
Those final works have now been completed and the whole 7.5 kilometre stretch of new dual carriageway is now fully open between Toome and the M22 at Randalstown.
Speaking at the official opening in Toome, Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Infrastructure, said: “The A6 is a strategically important route as it connects the North West to Belfast and beyond.
“The construction of the flagship Randalstown to Castledawson Dualling scheme will contribute to the economic development of the region and bring long term benefits to road users and local communities.
“It is also helping to secure jobs in the construction industry, with the vast majority of construction spend going directly to the local economy.
“The completion of the first phase is a significant milestone for the scheme and welcome news for the 20,000 vehicles using the route each day.
“The feedback from road users since the opening of the first stretch of new dual carriageway has already been extremely positive, with shorter, safer and more reliable journey times already experienced.
“With the works in this section now completed and the traffic restrictions removed, road safety will be further enhanced for car user, freight and the public transport services along this route.
“Delivering extensive improvements to the roads infrastructure involves the cooperation and understanding of the local community.
“I acknowledge the impact that this scheme has had on residents, landowners, businesses and road users. The Department and our Joint Venture partners, GRAHAM Farrans would like to thank all those impacted for their patience and support during the works.”
The Toome to Castledawson section is due to be completed in early 2021.
The scheme will provide approximately 14.7 kilometres of new dual carriageway; 7.3 kilometres between Randalstown and Toome and 7.4 kilometres km between Toome and Castledawson.
The A6 scheme will improve journey times on a Key Transport Corridor, which will enhance connectivity and unlock economic potential across the whole region.
During the construction phase, the scheme is supporting the construction industry and local jobs and is delivering a direct economic benefit of £2.30 for every £1 of capital investment.
So far, the project has provided local employment opportunities to 25 education leavers / long term unemployed, 9 Apprentices, 29 Student Placements, 39 Work Experience Students and has assisted 12 University research projects.
The site has been visited by local Schools, Colleges and Universities to see first-hand the construction works, with over 810 educational visitors to date.