Posted by: wesleyjohnston | January 29, 2013

Northern Ireland roads history cunningly hidden in legislation

I don’t normally blog about something as dull and mundane as a piece of draft trunk road legislation. You’ll find the Draft ‘The M2/Trunk Road T7 Order (Northern Ireland) 2013’ here. There are associated maps that can only be seen by physically visiting one of several Roads Service offices. However, lurking in the dry legal language are the fascinating relics of bygone eras!

First we need to clarify that the legislation is doing three things:

  1. making some bits of road “special roads“, which in this case is a technical way of applying motorway restrictions.
  2. making some bits of road “trunk roads“. A trunk road was originally meant to be a road funded and maintained by the Stormont government rather than local councils. Even though almost all roads in Northern Ireland are now maintained by Stormont, via Roads Service, the distinction is still important since trunk roads have additional properties, such as the need to get special permission to build access points onto them.
  3. removing trunk road status from some lengths of road, normally roads that have been superseded by a new road project.

On the face of it, the purpose of this legislation is to apply trunk road status to the new A2 dual-carriageway recently built from Maydown to City of Derry Airport, and remove trunk road status from the old road next to it. However, fascinatingly, the planners seem to have taken the opportunity to tidy up lots of loose ends and forgotten trunk roads that have built up over the past half century! And boy are there a lot of loose ends! They allow us to step back in time…

Below I give some of the most interesting tidbits that I’ve managed to extract by rummaging in this legal order. However it’s not exhaustive, and there are others that I don’t mention.

A2 Duke Street, Derry

Despite having been built in 1971 (42 years ago) it turns out that the Duke Street dual-carriageway in Londonderry was never properly trunked. Nor was its later extension to King Street (Waterside Link). In fact, it seems that Bond’s Hill – today an unclassified local road – is still technically a trunk road. You can see all this on the map that accompanies the legislation (existing trunk road in grey; new trunk roads to be added in this legislation in red; trunk roads to be removed outlined in brown). The map is all the more fascinating because the grey shading preserves, like a ghost, the outline of the road as it was pre-widening.

Duke Street area, Derry

A2 Clooney Road, Derry from Caw to Maydown

This is one of the most interesting ones – it seems that the upgraded dual-carriageway that runs from just before the Caw roundabout in Derry to Gransha has never been properly “trunked”, despite having been built in 1968 – almost half a century ago! The map below shows the road as it exists today in red, in process of being trunked. The grey line is the “trunk road”, which is actually the ghostly outline of the road that existed here in the 1960s. Incredible stuff!

A2 at Caw

I should clarify that this does not mean that the A2 Clooney Road was not legally a trunk road before 2013 – it was – but just that the physical area designated to form the “trunk road” did not cover the whole surface area of the road.

A2 Ballykelly to Limavady

There are quite a few clauses in the legislation that seem to refer to old bends that have been smoothed out. Whenever this happens on a trunk road, the new bit of road bypassing the bend needs to get “trunked” while the cut off corner needs to get “de-trunked”. This seems to have got forgotten in a few places, and this legislation puts it right. The map is far more useful than the legislation. For example, the legislation says:

[Lengths of Road to be Trunk Road]
6. 1230 metres of A2 Ballykelly Road, in the townlands of Ballyspallan, Glebe, Tullyhoe and Rascahan, from a point 15 metres north-east of its junction with U2289 Spallan Road to a point 225 metres north-east of its junction with C532 Broighter Road, more particularly delineated and coloured red on map T7/1. 

[Lengths of Road Which Will Cease to be Trunk Road]
10. 60 metres of A2 Ballykelly Road, in the townlands of Glebe and Tullyhoe, from a point 445 metres north-east of its junction with U2289 Spallan Road to a point 505 metres north-east of that junction, more particularly delineated and edged brown on map T7/1.
11. 215 metres of A2 Ballykelly Road, in the townlands of Glebe and Tullyhoe, from a point 520 metres north-east of its junction with U2289 Spallan Road to a point 735 metres north-east of that junction, more particularly delineated and edged brown on map T7/1.
12. 95 metres of A2 Ballykelly Road, in the townland of Glebe, from a point 750 metres north- east of its junction with U2289 Spallan Road to a point 845 metres north-east of that junction, more particularly delineated and edged brown on map T7/1.
13. 130 metres of A2 Ballykelly Road, in the townlands of Glebe and Tullyhoe, from a point 865 metres north-east of its junction with U2289 Spallan Road to a point 995 metres north-east of that junction, more particularly delineated and edged brown on map T7/1.
14. 245 metres of A2 Ballykelly Road, in the townlands of Glebe, Tullyhoe and Rascahan, from a point 5 metres south-west of its junction with C532 Broighter Road to a point 240 metres north- east of that junction, more particularly delineated and edged brown on map T7/1. 

Absolutely enthralling stuff isn’t it? Well thankfully the map makes it immediately obvious what’s going on. It is quite literally true that a picture says more than a thousand words:

A2 Limavady

The old road is marked in brown, and the new road in red. I’m fairly sure these bends got smoothed out when the A2 Limavady Bypass was built just to the right of this map ten years ago. (Added 2 Feb 2013: I am now told that these bends got smoothed out quite some time before the Limavady Bypass.) The fact that some of these supposed “trunk” roads don’t even exist any more demonstrates that it’s perhaps sensible to de-trunk them! For example, this is the road marked (14) on the map! And I wonder are the people living on the stretch of road marked (11) on the map above (shown below) aware that they’re still living on a trunk road while the main road to the left is non-trunk?

A26 north of Ballymena

It also seems that the 6km stretch of A26 dual-carriageway that lies immediately north of Ballymena, which was upgraded from single-carriageway in the 1970s (although I haven’t got an exact date) has also never been properly trunked since the upgrade. The map below shows the stretch at the south end, where it joins the M2 Ballymena Bypass. In this case part of the one-way system at Teeshan does not seem to have been correctly trunked back in 1969 when the Bypass opened. You can see the old single-carriageway road marked in grey, with the “new” (ie half century old) dual-carriageway marked in red. This trunking procedure continues north all the way to the end of the dual-carriageway at Glarryford.

A26 Teeshan

The legislation also shows that some overtaking lanes on the A26, such as the ones at Ballynaloob (built 2006) and Seacon North (many years’ old), plus other new dual-carriageways such as at Wattstown in Coleraine (built 1999), were also never properly trunked to reflect their construction, and this legislation corrects these omissions.

Special Roads (Motorways)

The legislation tidies up a few loose ends on the motorway network. For example, it makes sure that all of the relatively new sliproads at M2 junction 7 (Antrim Area Hospital) are legally “special roads” (along with some of the grass between them and the motorway!). The legislation also applies special road status to a very small chunk of York Street here since this bit of road leads inescapably onto the M2 and should hence be a motorway too. Also included is a chunk of Duncrue Street here, perhaps since vehicles could only be on this road having come from the M2. This means that up until now – technically – a banned road user such as a cyclist could have continued a very short way along the M2 on slip before they’d have been in breach of the law.

M2 at Paradise Walk

I have saved the most fascinating two until last. I have previously blogged about how the M2 briefly terminated on Paradise Walk near Templepatrick between 1972 – when the section from there to Antrim was built – and 1975 – when the gap between Paradise Walk and Sandyknowes opened. During this time traffic travelling east on the M2 veered off the M2 onto Paradise Walk to join the Antrim Road. Well, it seems that despite serving the purpose for only three years, Paradise Walk is still a trunk road! To be clear, this is part of the road we are talking about, a section that isn’t even accessible today. Well it seems that having sat gathering weeds for 38 years it’s time to de-trunk Paradise Walk. However, let’s celebrate because without this oversight we would not be able to see a map that confirms that Paradise Walk was, indeed, once a vital part of our motorway infrastructure. Three cheers for legislative oversights! The map clarifies what’s being de-trunked:

M2 at Paradise Walk

M2 at Sandyknowes

Finally, three changes are made at Sandyknowes roundabout. In two cases roads are de-trunked, and in both cases the roads in question do not exist. In the third case, motorway restrictions are added to the south-facing sliproads. These changes are visible on the map:

M2 SandyknowesWhen the M2 hill section (Greencastle to Sandyknowes) opened in 1966 it terminated at a much smaller Sandyknowes roundabout. There was no M2 beyond Sandyknowes, and instead traffic continued their journey on the A6 Antrim Road, which connected to the north-western corner of the roundabout beneath where the M2 now runs. When the stretch of the M2 from Sandyknowes to Templepatrick finally opened in 1975, the Antrim Road was shifted south to make way and Sandyknowes roundabout was enlarged. The map above de-trunks the original part of the Antrim Road, which was still legally a trunk road despite not being in existence! Also de-trunked is the north-eastern part of the original, smaller, Sandyknowes Roundabout. Fascinating stuff!

What is happening on the M2 is peculiar. The grey shading shows the existing trunk/special road status, which in this case appears to be the southbound mainline of the M2 plus the original onslip from the 1966 Sandyknowes roundabout – but not the 1966 offslip – and – incredibly – not the mainline of the M2 adjacent to the sliproad either. Very odd. The purple shading shows the new area of road being given special road (ie motorway) status. Can it really be the case that these extra bits, namely the northbound offslip to Sandyknowes roundabout, plus part of the northbound carriageway adjacent to it, has not legally been a motorway for the past 47 years? Incredible stuff.


For those interested in roads this legal order has allowed us to make a fascinating trip into the past and catch a glimpse of how little sections of our road system have evolved over the past half century. Some of them may have their origins in omissions and oversights in the years gone by, but we can be thankful for these and for those who spotted them and are putting them right.

None of this legislation makes the slightest difference to the travelling public. It does not change anything for a road user, and does not  lead to any interesting legal cases. All it does is keep the legalities correct, the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed. The only place this sort of thing might ever come up is in a courtroom in arguments between planning and land law solicitors. Nevertheless, it is incredible to see the amount of thought and precision that must go in to these legal orders.

There are more maps than the ones I’ve included in this blog. If you are interested in what you’ve read here, and want to see all the maps, then they “may be inspected by any person free of charge at all reasonable hours during the period from 29 January to 12 March 2013 at the Department’s Roads Service offices, Headquarters, Room 2-13, Clarence Court, 10-18 Adelaide Street, Belfast; Northern Division, County Hall, Castlerock Road, Coleraine, County Hall, Galgorm Road, Ballymena and Londonderry Section Office, 1 Crescent Road, Londonderry; and Eastern Division, Hydebank, 4 Hospital Road, Belfast.”


  1. Fascinating stuff Wesley, thanks for the analysis. It certainly makes the bizarre notice in today’s Antrim Guardian (and presumably other papers) make a lot more sense!

    • It’s worth noting that although Item 47 in part III of the schedule detrunks Templepatrick Roundabout, that is only with regard to the T7 – it’s still part of the trunk road from Ballynure to the Airport along the A57.

      It does feel, doesn’t it, like it would be easier to repeal all the Orders establishing the T7 and make the roads trunk from scratch!

      Just one technicality – I think that the various bits of motorway are already established as special roads ok, or we would have had some serious difficulties long before now with onslips and offslips. For that reason, I would suggest that they are being restated as special to retain that status rather than having the trunk designation override the special road status.

  2. Further note on that: look at the draft legislation carefully. The actual legislation does not once mention the word motorway, just that it includes a road called “M2” and it shall be a special road. There is separate legislation stating that it is a motorway (with the associated speed limit) – compare the Westlink/M1 legislation where it specifies that the realigned M1 shall be a special road and a motorway.

    I think in this case they have specified that the M2 is a special trunk road allowing only vehicles of Class I and II, but there is separate legislation which confirms the M2 is also a special road and a motorway (but which did not need to be repeated as its motorway status was not in question) with the additional restrictions that brings.

    • Thanks for the clarification Andy – I wondered how long it would be before you replied. 😉

      The layers in this are unbelievable. Trunk-Special, Special-Motorway – I think it’s amazing that there are people within the DRD who understand all this and can draft these legal orders.

      • With better planning, the M2 would have been included in the trunk road order in the first place! 😉

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