M2 motorway (Northern Ireland)

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The M2 is a motorway in County Antrim. It is in two sections, the southern section running from north Belfast to Antrim and the northern section acts as a bypass of Ballymena, with the A26 road linking the two sections. In total it is 22 miles. The M2 has the busiest sections of any road or motorway in Northern Ireland. The M2 is one of Northern Ireland's most important motorways, forming most of the main route from Belfast to both Belfast International Airport and less than a quarter of the way to Londonderry.


Southern section

The route starts at as a continuation of the M3 to the west of the River Lagan at Duncairn. It strikes north past the docks and to the east of Fortwilliam before turning west on slip roads at Junction 2. It now runs through the northern suburbs of Belfast past Whitewell and enters the hill section as it climbs at a gradient of up to 1 in 15, one of the steepest in the United Kingdom.[1] It then passes south of Glengormley before leaving the city behind at Ballyvesy. Entering the countryside, it runs parallel to Ballymartin Water before reaching Junction 5 north of Templepatrick, then crosses Six Mile Water before arriving to the north of Burnside at Junction 6. Running around the north of Antrim, shortly after Junction 7 the road meets an incomplete junction where the motorway would have continued to Ballymena. When the road widens, it becomes the M22.

Northern section

The route begins to the south east of Ballymena at Ballycregy as a continuation of the A26 and heads north under the roundabout at junction 10. Running east of Crebilly it crosses the River Braid and turns more north west to the west of Rabbit Hill passes south of Killyflugh, passes east of Leymore and terminates on the A26 by Teeshan.


A route roughly along the line of the M2 had been planned since the 1930s, but the first concrete plans for the North Approach were announced in 1946.[2] In 1956 proposals for several motorways, including the M2, were announced with the M2 running directly to Ballymena.[3] Part of this alignment became the A8(M). In 1964 the plans were further extended to route the M2 via Antrim to Coleraine,[3] away from its original direct alignment over difficult terrain,[4] which is how the plans for construction were then progressed. The A8(M) was already under construction, so it was left as a spur.

Due to financial restraints, it was decided to prioritise the sections of the road required urgently, with the first stage being started on 2 September 1963.[4] Construction continued until 1975, with the road being opened in the following sections:

  • Junctions 1 to 2 opened in 1973
  • Junctions 2 to 4 opened in 1966
  • Junctions 4 to 5 opened in 1975
  • Junctions 5 to M22 opened in 1971
  • Junctions 10 to 12 opened in 1969

In 1993 Junction 7 was opened to provide access to Antrim Area Hospital.

The section between Junctions 7 and 10 was to be the next section constructed, but with the onset of The Troubles, nearly all the planned motorway projects were cancelled. The A26 between M22 Junction 1 and Junction 10 of the M2 was progressively upgraded to a dual carriageway and so it is now unlikely that the M2 will ever be completed.

The section between Junctions 1A and 2 is ten lanes (five lanes and two full-width shoulders each way) and, when it was opened, was the widest motorway in the United Kingdom.[1]


Southern section

M2 motorway
Southeastbound exits Junction Northwestbound exits
End of M2
Motorway carries on as M3
Belfast (W), The WEST, The SOUTH A12 (M1)
Belfast (E), Newcastle, City Airport, Bangor M3
J1A Start of motorway
Docks, City Centre A2 J1B No access
Fortwilliam, Docks (N), Stena Line, Shore Road (A2) J1 Fortwilliam, Docks (N), Stena Line, Shore Road (A2)
Greenisland, Carrickfergus A2 J2 Whiteabbey, Carrickfergus M5
Greenisland, Rathcoole, Whitewell A2
A6 Larne A8(M) Glengormley J4 A6 Larne A8(M) Glengormley
Larne (A8), Ballyclare, Templepatrick A57 J5 International Airport Airport interchange Templepatrick, Ballyclare A57
Antrim B95 J6 Antrim B95
Antrim Area Hospital J7 Antrim Area Hospital
End of M22 - Motorway carries on as M2 M22, J1 Motorway carries on as M22
Londonderry, Cookstown M22
Antrim, Ballymena, Coleraine A26


  • Junction 1B is the only motorway junction in the United Kingdom that consists solely of motorway exits, with no entry slip-roads[1]
  • There is no Junction 3

Northern section

M2 motorway
Southbound exits Junction Northbound exits
End of motorway
A26 dual carriageway continues
International Airport Airport interchange Belfast, Antrim A26
Ballymena, Larne A36
J10 Start of motorway
Ballymena, Broughshane A42 Cushendall (A43) J11 Ballymena, Broughshane A42
Start of motorway J12 End of motorway
A26 dual carriageway continues
Coleraine A26 Ballycastle (A44) Ballymena

Motorway service areas

Petrogas opened a Motorway service area in April 2015 off the northbound carriageway between the Glengormley and Templepatrick junctions. Branded "Applegreen" the service area contains food franchises including Burger King. A second service area is under construction off the southbound carriageway[5][6]


Outside links

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