M1 motorway (Northern Ireland)

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The M1 from the bridge at junction 9

The M1 is a motorway in Northern Ireland. It is the earliest and the longest motorway in Ulster and runs for 38 miles from Belfast to Dungannon through the counties of Down and Armagh. It also forms part of the main route between Belfast and Dublin (by way of the A1 in County Down and the N1/M1 in the Republic of Ireland).

The motorway is designated by the European Commissionas being a part of the unsigned 'European routes' E01 and E18.


M1-M12, near Portadown

The road begins in Belfast at the Broadway roundabout to the west of Windsor Park and running parallel to the Blackstaff River. Heading south as a dual three–lane motorway, it passes to the east of Casement Park before crossing the Belfast-to-Newry railway line.

Running through Dunmurry and Ballyskeagh it arrives to the south of Lisburn. Traffic for Dublin leaves at junctions 7 and 8 as the motorway enters the countryside. Now heading west past Aghnatrisk it runs parallel to and then crosses the Belfast-to-Newry railway line followed by the River Lagan before reaching Moira. Continuing west, it passes between Killaghy and Tullydagan and to the north of Lurgan and Turmoyra, across the Pound River, south of Lough Neagh, before its junction with the M12. Crossing the River Bann it then enters a relatively unpopulated area. It passes south of Derryadd Lough and runs in a loop around the Annagarriff Nature Reserve before crossing the River Blackwater, skirting to the north of Tamnamore and Laghey Corner before ending at Dungannon on the A4.


The line of the M1 in Belfast had been planned for a road since 1946 as the Southern Approach Road, though there were some disagreements on the route.[1] County planners in Armagh had also been working on plans to rebuild the then T3 trunk road which suffered from poor alignments, limited speed limits and was of failing construction, some work on which had been undertaken between 1955 and 1957.[1] These two plans were eventually upgraded into plans for the M1 by 1958. Construction began 1957 on the first bridge and subsequently the first section of the motorway.[1] In 1964, the Northern Ireland Government announced plans for an extensive route of motorways which saw the M1 now planned to go to Dungannon.[2] The M1 is the only motorway in Ulster completed to its full, originally planned length.

The road was constructed in stages between 1962 and 1968.[3] At the end of 1965 UK Transport Minister Tom Fraser and his successor Barbara Castle imposed a blanket 70 mph speed limit on motorways in Great Britain, but the recently constructed Northern Ireland M1 remained free of a blanket speed limit for several years.[4]

  • Junctions 1 to 6 opened on 10 July 1962
The motorway follows the route of the former Lagan Canal between junctions 2 and 6. The first user of the road was a motorcyclist, Robert McFall of Belfast. The section between Junctions 1 and 3 was subsequently widened to three lanes in each direction.
  • Junctions 6 to 7 opened on 15 December 1963
  • Junctions 7 to 9 opened on 6 December 1965
  • Junctions 9 to 10 opened on 28 February 1966
  • Junctions 10 to 11 opened on 27 November 1967
  • Junctions 11 to 12 opened on 29 January 1968
  • Junctions 12 to 13 opened on 1 December 1964
  • Junctions 13 to 15 opened on 23 December 1967
Junctions 12 to 15 were constructed across a peat bog which is up to 39 feet deep, which required the removal of {{convert|3.4 million of peat@.[1]

Several junctions were omitted from the original construction, as these were for future planned motorways, some of these have now been used for other road plans:

  • Junction 3 was opened in 1988.
  • Junction 8 was opened in 2003. This provides access to the A1 in both directions, whilst junction 7 had its slip roads facing west closed. Junction 8 had originally been planned for a different location for the M11 motorway to relieve the A1 towards the border with the Republic of Ireland.

The M1 is straight and flat on the 6-mile stretch between Junctions 9 and 10 and on the 4-mile stretch between Junctions 12 and 13, and an urban myth exists claiming that these were to be used as supplementary runways by the United States Air Force in the event of a major conflict with the Soviet Union.[5]

By the mid 2000s the M1 in Belfast had high traffic flows at peak times and suffered from congestion. To relieve this work commenced early in 2006 to replace the roundabout at junction 1 with a fully grade separated junction through which the M1 now flows directly onto the A12 Westlink dual-carriageway.[6] As part of the scheme, the M1 was widened from two to three lanes in each direction between Junctions 1 and 2 along with part of the Westlink.

Work was also carried out on the A4 which begins at the terminus of the M1 between Dungannon to Ballygawley (approximately 12.5 miles) was upgraded to dual carriageway standard,[7] opening in November 2010.

Future improvements

In 2006, the government announced plans for a £45m flyover link directly to and from the A1 and M1 eastbound. Construction was initially estimated to take place between 2010 and 2015.[8] As of December 2010, the scheme had a projected 2018 completion year.[9] In 2011 the government announced plans for two service areas in each direction between junction 3 and junction 6 near Ballyskeagh. These service stations will be the first motorway service stations in Northern Ireland. They will include petrol stations and restaurant facilities. Construction began on the westbound service area in November 2013 and no work has not yet began on the eastbound service area. The government also have plans to add west facing slip roads at junction 3. Junction 3 opened in 1988 with only east facing slip roads. Construction on the west facing slip roads is expected to be completed by 2018.


M1 motorway
Eastbound exits Junction Westbound exits
County Antrim
End of motorway
A12 dual carriageway continues
The NORTH (M2), (M3), Belfast, Airports Airport interchange Docks A12
Belfast (W), (S)
J1 Start of motorway
Outer Ring, Newtownards, King's Hall A55 J2 Outer Ring, Newtownards, King's Hall A55
No access J3 Dunmurry, Finaghy A1
County Down
Lisburn (City centre), Saintfield A49 J6 Lisburn (City centre), Saintfield A49
No access J7 Lisburn, Sprucefield A1
The SOUTH, Dublin, Sprucefield A101, A1 J8 The SOUTH Dublin, Newry A101, A1
Moira A3, Antrim, A26, International Airport Airport interchange J9 International Airport Airport interchange Antrim, A26, Moira, A3
County Armagh
Craigavon (Lurgan), A76 J10 Craigavon (Lurgan), A76
Craigavon (Portadown), Armagh, M12 J11 Craigavon, Portadown M12
Craigavon (Portadown) A4 J12 Craigavon (Portadown) A4
Loughgall B131 J13 Loughgall B131
County Tyrone
Moy B106, Services, Coalisland A45 J14 Services, Coalisland A45, Moy B106
Start of motorway J15 End of motorway
A4 dual carriageway continues
Enniskillen, Omagh A4
Armagh, Dungannon, Moygashel A29
Note: There is no junction 4 or 5.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about M1 motorway (Northern Ireland))


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 The Motorway Archive – M1 (Northern Ireland)
  2. Northern Ireland Roads Site – History of Motorway Plans
  3. The Motorway Archive Archive – M1 (Northern Ireland) Dates Page
  4. "Irish Alphabet: A look at the Royal Ulster Constabulary". Autocar 128 (nbr 3778): pages 19–23. 11 July 1968. 
  5. Northern Ireland Roads Site – M1
  6. "M1 Westlink Improvements". Roads Service Northern Ireland. http://roadimprovements.roadsni.gov.uk/index/schemes/m1_westlink_improvements.htm. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  7. "A4 Dungannon to Ballygawley". Roads Service Northern Ireland. http://roadimprovements.roadsni.gov.uk/index/schemes/a4_dungannon_to_ballygawley.htm. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  8. Department for Regional Development (31 July 2006). "Cairns Consults On £400 Million Roads Package". Press release. http://archive.nics.gov.uk/rd/060731a-rd.htm. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  9. M1 A1 link scheme, Completion due 2018.
Motorways in the United Kingdom

Great Britain: M1  • M2  • M3  • M4  • M5  • M6  • M6 Toll  • M8  • M9  • M10  • M11  • M18  • M20  • M23  • M25  • M26  • M27  • M32  • M40  • M42  • M45  • M48  • M49  • M50  • M53  • M54  • M55  • M56  • M57  • M58  • M60  • M61  • M62  • M63  • M65  • M66  • M67  • M69  • M73  • M74  • M77  • M80  • M85  • M90  • M180  • M181  • M271  • M275  • M602  • M606  • M621  • M876  • M898  • Sections of A road: A1(M)

Former motorways marked in italics

Northern Ireland: M1  • M2  • M3  • M5  • M12  • M22