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The M2 is a motorway in Belfastmarker and County Antrim in Northern Irelandmarker. It is in two sections, the southern section running from north Belfastmarker to Antrimmarker and the northern section acts as a bypass of Ballymenamarker, with the A26 road linking the two sections. In total it is 22 miles (36.2 kilometres). The M2 is one of Northern Ireland's most important motorways, forming most of the main route from Belfast city to both Belfast International Airportmarker and Derrymarker. It forms part of the unsigned European route E01 and E16 roads.


Southern section

The route starts at as a continuation of the M3marker to the west of the River Laganmarker at Duncairn. It strikes north past the docks and to the east of Fortwilliammarker 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. 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 Templepatrickmarker, 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.

This section of the M2 is notable in that it connects with all of the other motorways in Northern Ireland except the M1 and M12.

Northern section

The unused route under Junction 10.
The Ballymena Bypass begins to the south east of Ballymena at Ballycregy and heads north from a roundabout. 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. In 1956 proposals for several motorways, including the M2, were announced with the M2 running directly to Ballymena. Part of this alignment became the A8. In 1964 the plans were further extended to route the M2 via Antrim to Colerainemarker, away from its original direct alignment over difficult terrain, 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. 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 and then direct rule, 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 each way) and, when it was opened, was the widest motorway in the United Kingdom.

Future plans

Southern section

  • A scheme is currently (as of February 2009) underway to widen the M2 to three lanes city bound between Junctions 2 and 4 and to remodel the Sandyknowes roundabout (Junction 4). The project is due for completion by Summer 2009.
  • In April 2008 a plan was approved to construct a flyover enabling a direct link between the M2 and A12 Westlink, to be completed between 2013 and 2018.

Northern section

  • The M2 currently ends at a roundabout junction, with provision for the unbuilt section between Junctions 7 and 10. The A26 currently leaves this roundabout at an at-grade junction. It is planned to extend the route under the roundabout at Junction 10 to connect with the A26 requiring around one mile (1.6 km) of new build road.


Southern section

M2 Motorway
Southeastbound exits Junction Northwestbound exits
The SOUTH, City Centremarker, Dublinmarker, Bangormarker (A12 , M3marker), York Street Exit 1a Start of motorway
Docksmarker, Drumcrue South Exit 1b No access
Docksmarker, Duncrue, Skegoneill (A2marker) Docksmarker, Duncrue, Fort William (A2marker)
Newtownabbey Southmarker, Cloghmycostally (A2marker) Carrickfergusmarker, Rathcoole Newtownabbey Southmarker (M5, A2marker)
Newtownabbey Northmarker, Carrickfergusmarker, Mallusk (A8, A6, B90, B95) Larnemarker, Ballyclaremarker (A8, A6, B90, B95)
Larnemarker, Ballyclaremarker (A57 ) Belfast International Airportmarker, Templepatrickmarker (A57)
Antrim Eastmarker (B95) Antrim Eastmarker (B95)
Antrim Northmarker , Antrim Area Hospital (B95) Antrim Northmarker , Antrim Area Hospital (B95)
End of 'M22
Beginning of
Antrim Northmarker, Ballymenamarker (
- Motorway continues as ('M22)
Derrymarker, Magherafeltmarker, Letterkennymarker, (
Antrim, Ballymenamarker, Colerainemarker (A26)


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

Northern section

M2 Motorway
Southbound exits Junction Northbound exits
End of motorway
Antrimmarker, Belfastmarker, Dublinmarker (A26)
Larnemarker (A36marker)

Start of motorway
Ballymena Southmarker (A36marker)
Ballymena Northmarker, Cushendallmarker
Broughshanemarker, Carnloughmarker (A42)
Ballymena Northmarker, Cushendallmarker
Broughshanemarker, Carnloughmarker (A42)
Start of motorway
Ballymena Northmarker (A26)
End of motorway
A26 dual carriageway continues
Colerainemarker, Ballycastle, Ballymoneymarker

See also


  1. Northern Ireland Roads Site - M2
  2. The Motorway Archive - Northern Ireland Summary
  3. Northern Ireland Roads Site - History of Motorway Plans
  4. The Motorway Archive - M2 (Northern Ireland)

External links

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