N.IRL: M21 question resolved

The study of British and Irish roads - their construction, numbering, history, mapping, past and future official roads proposals and general roads musings.

There is a separate forum for Street Furniture (traffic lights, street lights, road signs etc).

Registered users get access to other forums including discussions about other forms of transport, driving, fantasy roads and wishlists, and roads quizzes.

Moderator: Site Management Team

User avatar
nirs
Member
Posts: 3915
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 14:51
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Contact:

N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by nirs »

Yesterday I had the chance to chat to T Jackson McCormick, who was Head of Roads Service in the early 1980s and was heavily involved in selecting the route of the M2 motorway in the 1950s and 1960s. I asked him the long standing question of why there is no M21 and if one was ever planned.

He confirmed that the number "M21" was deliberately omitted to allow a future motorway spur to Belfast International Airport. However, he also confirmed that at no point was there a plan to build this road, and no route was ever selected or even tentatively suggested. So, it seems that the M21 went no further than leaving a number free for future use, and that no planning took place at all. I asked him to speculate where it would have joined the M2, but he repeated that that had never been discussed other than the fact that it would obviously "have been beyond Glengormley".

I think that comprehensively settles the matter (although it's a shame since I was hoping for lots of plans to pour over!)

This may even be too vague for the likes of Steven's Pathetic Motorways!

PS: He also confirmed that there was "enormous political pressure" to build a motorway to L'Derry, which was eventually agreed to but never built, and equally "enormous political pressure" to extend the M1 to Enniskillen, which was never agreed to.
Northern Ireland Roads Site www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads
User avatar
Steven
SABRE Maps Coordinator
Posts: 19239
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2002 20:39
Location: Wolverhampton, Staffordshire
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by Steven »

Very interesting Wesley - nicely done!
Steven
Motorway Historian

Founder Member, SABRE ex-Presidents' Corner

Add your roads knowledge to the SABRE Wiki today!
Have you browsed SABRE Maps recently? Try getting involved!

User avatar
stu531
Member
Posts: 2333
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2002 23:10
Location: Harrogate

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by stu531 »

I've not written on an NI issue before so please excuse my ignorance...

Is it likely that the A1, down to the border, will ever be given motorway status once everything is GSJed? If so, would it be renumbered as M1 to link with the M1 in the south? (If so, what would happen to the existing M1 to the west?)

Stu
User avatar
nirs
Member
Posts: 3915
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 14:51
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by nirs »

Hi Stu - yes, we've had that chat a few times. There's no current plans to do so. The reasons are:
1. Even after the GSJs there will still be a number of left in/left out junctions.
2. Some of these are private houses!
3. The road has been such an artery for so long that banning certain vehicles would be very disruptive.
4. Poor horizontal alignment especially at Dromore.
5. Closely spaced junctions, eg at Banbridge.
6. Stormont lacks the political will to do a full motorway upgrade with parallel access roads etc.
7. It probably could not be justified from a cost/benefit viewpoint at this point in time.
Northern Ireland Roads Site www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads
dantheman
Member
Posts: 841
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 09:20
Location: NW Europe

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by dantheman »

INteresting about the M21, thanks Wes. At least we have "closure" on that one! I wonder from whom the enormous political pressure to build the motorways to Derry and Enniskillen came from? Was Basil Brooke not PM around that time, and was his seat not near Enniskillen?? It certainly seems at odds with Stormonts general view regarding WOTB.

Regarding the A1, upgrading eould require new build for at least 10 miles. The cumbernauld gap and M8 in scotland will be complete, but alas this will not, unless they approve new build of at least 10 miles of motorway. :pig: :pig:
User avatar
nirs
Member
Posts: 3915
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 14:51
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by nirs »

dantheman wrote:I wonder from whom the enormous political pressure to build the motorways to Derry and Enniskillen came from? Was Basil Brooke not PM around that time, and was his seat not near Enniskillen?? It certainly seems at odds with Stormonts general view regarding WOTB.
Yes, that's an interesting question and I would like to know more about it. When the railway line to Enniskillen was closed there was huge political uproar from unionist MPs. The then-PM Basil Brooke who was from Fermanagh made a "promise" that the road would be improved to compensate, but a lot of unionists were very angry with him, especially as he was a "Fermanagh man" who firstly closed the railway to Fermanagh and then did not follow through on the "promise". The pressure from L'Derry is more complex, as I think it came from both unionist and nationalist MPs. Certainly there was a lot of reports in the Derry media at the time concerning motorway developments.
Northern Ireland Roads Site www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads
User avatar
murphaph
Member
Posts: 5339
Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2005 18:43
Location: Brieselang, Brandenburg

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by murphaph »

So does that put to bed the idea that the short dual section of B95 near Antrim was to be the spur to the airport? Kinda disappointed at that tbh.
User avatar
nirs
Member
Posts: 3915
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 14:51
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by nirs »

murphaph wrote:So does that put to bed the idea that the short dual section of B95 near Antrim was to be the spur to the airport? Kinda disappointed at that tbh.
Yes, we're fairly certain now that that was part of an eastern bypass of Antrim town that got abandoned!
Northern Ireland Roads Site www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads
User avatar
A42_Sparks
Member
Posts: 958
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2003 23:20
Location: Ballymena, N Ireland

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by A42_Sparks »

nirs wrote:Yesterday I had the chance to chat to T Jackson McCormick, who was Head of Roads Service in the early 1980s and was heavily involved in selecting the route of the M2 motorway in the 1950s and 1960s. I asked him the long standing question of why there is no M21 and if one was ever planned.

He confirmed that the number "M21" was deliberately omitted to allow a future motorway spur to Belfast International Airport. equally "enormous political pressure" to extend the M1 to Enniskillen, which was never agreed to.
Told ya! 8-)

Great to get independent confirmation on this, nirs. As you know, I first heard about the M21 from my father who worked for local government around the time of the designation of Antrim/Ballymena as a 'new town'.

I had also heard about the M1 going to Enniskillen before but can't remember where I heard that. It certainly explains why Enniskillen used to be signed on the first RCS on the M1 leaving Belfast (I haven't been up that way in a long time so not sure if it still is).
nirs wrote:
murphaph wrote:So does that put to bed the idea that the short dual section of B95 near Antrim was to be the spur to the airport? Kinda disappointed at that tbh.
Yes, we're fairly certain now that that was part of an eastern bypass of Antrim town that got abandoned!
I'm still not convinced about that tbh, the short dual section, the earthworks for the planned GSJ with the B95 Greystone Rd and Rathbeg roundabout itself all seem far too overblown for just an eastern bypass of Antrim. The cutting through the hill @ Greystone Rd seems to be taking a direct route to the airport.

Was the roundabout and 'spur' built at the same time as the rest of the M2 Antrim bypass section? If so, perhaps it was built to provide short-term access to the east of Antrim whilst leaving future provision for a continuation of the spur towards the airport? Doing this at the time of construction would be easier than having to come back several years later, looking for somewhere to build a spur off the M2.

And then by the 1980's when it was clear the M21 would never be built, the unfinished junction with Greystone Rd was tidied up into the present arrangement where the dual carriageway merges directly into Greystone Rd.
User avatar
nirs
Member
Posts: 3915
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 14:51
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by nirs »

I've recently (at Christmas time) seen a design for an extension of the B95. This design came from a farmer whose land was due to be vested to allow its construction. According to this plan, the B95 would continue beyond its GSJ on Greystone Road, before curving gently to the right to cross Ballycraigy Road on a second GSJ. If you look at a satellite image you can actually see that there's a line here that's clear of all but the most recent developments which makes me certain that this was what was planned. These junctions would also have been too close together for it to have been a motorway.

Following this route on it seems that the only place the road could possibly terminate is on the Belfast Road at the modern Belmont Road roundabout. The only thing that blocks this route is the "Grange Lodge" estate, but it was only built in the past few years. All this has convinced me that the B95 was never going to be a motorway, and is nothing to do with the M21. It was merely an unfinished high-standard access route for the south side of Antrim town. I think it was built when Antrim and Ballymena were planned for major expansion. Since that didn't happen, the road was never needed. I imagine the first bit was built simply to provide access to the M2 from Antrim. Although it may seem "overblown", plans from that era do tend to show GSJs in all sorts of places that they would not be considered now.

I've drawn a map to illustrate what we know. Here is the link. The red are items we know were planned:
1) The north east section is evidenced on the ground and from old maps, as well as a map of the proposed junction that I think someone on SABRE has posted up.
2) The southern section is evidenced by a map that I was given in December 2008 that showed the junction here.
The blue bits are conjecture.

If you zoom way in on that map you'll see lots of evidence in terms of undeveloped land and, particularly at Grand Lodge to the south west, in field boundaries. I should add that this is based on info that got sent to me by a site visitor - I didn't come up with all this by myself, so can't claim credit.
Northern Ireland Roads Site www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads
User avatar
A42_Sparks
Member
Posts: 958
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2003 23:20
Location: Ballymena, N Ireland

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by A42_Sparks »

Great stuff! OK you convinced me! :twisted: I'd be interested to see a scan of the Ballycraigy Rd junction if possible nirs?

For many years there was a stub at the Belmont Road roundabout which as you say became the entry to Grange Lodge. I had always assumed the stub had been left for the future estate but it must have originally been intended for the bypass. Good bit of investigation there.

Antrim town itself is full of roads with provision for future dualling including Ballycraigy Rd and the whole of Stiles Way, the latter with some huge curving footbridges over a simple S2 :shock:
User avatar
explo
Member
Posts: 443
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2006 21:59
Location: Bangor
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by explo »

Might I suspect, nirs, that you asked this gentleman about more than the M21...?
User avatar
nirs
Member
Posts: 3915
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 14:51
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by nirs »

explo wrote:Might I suspect, nirs, that you asked this gentleman about more than the M21...?
Ha! Yes, we chatted about a few other things as well. He worked on the Sydenham Bypass, and was involved in the design of the Urban Motorway too. It's nice to hear some "first hand" memories from so far back. He recalled that the M2 was originally due to go straight to Ballymena, via Doagh. He said that the reason it got diverted via Antrim is not, as I had thought, because of the difficult terrain on that route, but simply because they thought it would be more useful serving Antrim than Doagh! He also recalled three of the bridges on the M2 hill section being built in pits, and how they sat like oddities for almost ten years before the M2 opened beneath.

I'll look out the Ballycraigy map and try to get it scanned.
Northern Ireland Roads Site www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads
User avatar
crc
Member
Posts: 37
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2007 15:54
Location: Cork

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by crc »

nirs,

1) do you know if there was a plan for the rest of the numbering system in NI? I was always interested why the A2 went all the way around the coast (and in Derry there are three roads that emerge from the city called the A2!)

2) and, someone over on boards.ie has found your site:
http://boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2055465513
User avatar
nirs
Member
Posts: 3915
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 14:51
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by nirs »

crc wrote:1) do you know if there was a plan for the rest of the numbering system in NI? I was always interested why the A2 went all the way around the coast (and in Derry there are three roads that emerge from the city called the A2!)
This is a mystery lost in the sands of time. Roads Service made a statement on the topic last year (I think) where they said that they'd consulted their archives but were "unable to find any record" of how the numbering system was established originally. I asked T Jackson McCormick, who started work on roads in 1949, and he did not know either, but thought that the A and B numbers were first introduced in the 1920s. C roads were introduced in the 1949 Roads Act. He did say that road numbers were proposed locally and then approved at Stormont level, so there may really not have been any logic to it. The A5xx series were added more recently, but again he was unable to say why that particular series was chosen. I think unfortunately that the only people who could answer the question are now dead, and no records apparently exist at Roads Service, so we may never know.
2) and, someone over on boards.ie has found your site:
http://boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2055465513
Ha! Well, my thinking has evolved a bit since then. I've been meaning to revise it.... the NRA now have an M2 for example.
Northern Ireland Roads Site www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads
User avatar
jackal
Member
Posts: 7593
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 23:33
Location: M6

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by jackal »

nirs wrote:I've recently (at Christmas time) seen a design for an extension of the B95. This design came from a farmer whose land was due to be vested to allow its construction. According to this plan, the B95 would continue beyond its GSJ on Greystone Road, before curving gently to the right to cross Ballycraigy Road on a second GSJ. If you look at a satellite image you can actually see that there's a line here that's clear of all but the most recent developments which makes me certain that this was what was planned. These junctions would also have been too close together for it to have been a motorway.

Following this route on it seems that the only place the road could possibly terminate is on the Belfast Road at the modern Belmont Road roundabout. The only thing that blocks this route is the "Grange Lodge" estate, but it was only built in the past few years. All this has convinced me that the B95 was never going to be a motorway, and is nothing to do with the M21. It was merely an unfinished high-standard access route for the south side of Antrim town. I think it was built when Antrim and Ballymena were planned for major expansion. Since that didn't happen, the road was never needed. I imagine the first bit was built simply to provide access to the M2 from Antrim. Although it may seem "overblown", plans from that era do tend to show GSJs in all sorts of places that they would not be considered now.
Even if you're correct about the planned route (which you may well be), I think that would be entirely consistent with the road being part of the M21 to the airport. If the road headed to the Belmont Rd roundabout it would be heading in the direction of the airport, and could be extended to it quite easily.

That particular route may have been planned so as to kill two birds with one stone - providing access to both the airport and southern Antrim. The junction spacing would not be unusual for what could have been a fairly urban motorway (given the nearby developments presumably planned at the time).
User avatar
explo
Member
Posts: 443
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2006 21:59
Location: Bangor
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by explo »

nirs wrote:This is a mystery lost in the sands of time. Roads Service made a statement on the topic last year (I think) where they said that they'd consulted their archives but were "unable to find any record" of how the numbering system was established originally. I asked T Jackson McCormick, who started work on roads in 1949, and he did not know either, but thought that the A and B numbers were first introduced in the 1920s. C roads were introduced in the 1949 Roads Act. He did say that road numbers were proposed locally and then approved at Stormont level, so there may really not have been any logic to it. The A5xx series were added more recently, but again he was unable to say why that particular series was chosen. I think unfortunately that the only people who could answer the question are now dead, and no records apparently exist at Roads Service, so we may never know.
If you recall the information I sent you a few months ago, there was evidence contained in it that the A500 and A501 were in existence in the 1920s.
User avatar
nirs
Member
Posts: 3915
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 14:51
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by nirs »

jackal - I suppose we'd need to look at copies of the Antrim area plan to see if that's true or not.

explo - Yes, indeed. I'm suffering from information overload! I wish we knew how the numbering system was developed, but I suspect me may never know.
Northern Ireland Roads Site www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads
User avatar
Steven
SABRE Maps Coordinator
Posts: 19239
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2002 20:39
Location: Wolverhampton, Staffordshire
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by Steven »

nirs wrote:I suspect me may never know.
The Roads Service may not know, but are there National Archives of NI? Given that the numbering system was instigated around the time of partition, it is possible that those records actually have been accidentally inherited by the Republic and hence be in Dublin?
Steven
Motorway Historian

Founder Member, SABRE ex-Presidents' Corner

Add your roads knowledge to the SABRE Wiki today!
Have you browsed SABRE Maps recently? Try getting involved!

User avatar
nirs
Member
Posts: 3915
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 14:51
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Contact:

Re: N.IRL: M21 question resolved

Post by nirs »

Steven wrote:
nirs wrote:I suspect me may never know.
The Roads Service may not know, but are there National Archives of NI? Given that the numbering system was instigated around the time of partition, it is possible that those records actually have been accidentally inherited by the Republic and hence be in Dublin?
Yes, it is possible indeed. A large percentage of official records were destroyed in the GPO fire of 1916, during the Easter Rising, so there is a lack of many records before that date. All the Irish census information, for example, was destroyed in the fire. The numbering system in NI does seem specific to NI, however, which would seem to place it after 1921. The years of the "Troubles" have destroyed many more records, eg by bomb attacks on public buildings. However, there are likely to be some records in the Public Record Office (PRONI). However, PRONI's records are all in storage at the minute as they're in the process of moving from their current inadequate offices to a new state-of-the-art building in Titanic Quarter. Once it opens, I'll try to get a chance to go and see what's there.

Edit: Sorry, PRONI have not yet started packing up. In fact, you can now search the archive at www.proni.gov.uk However, their descriptions are often very general, so searching is not easy. For example, a discussion on the M2 route might be indexed as "Antrim County Surveyor - various items". :roll:
Northern Ireland Roads Site www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads
Post Reply