Motorway service areas to create 250 new jobs
Northern Ireland's motorways are to benefit from four new service stations, two on each side of Belfast, as part of an investment totalling £25m and creating 250 jobs.
There will also be around 1,000 construction jobs created during the building phase.
The Applegreen chain, which already operates successful facilities in the Republic at locations including Castlebellingham and Lusk, will open its first pair of super service areas between Junctions 4 and 5 on the M2 near Templepatrick, with an additional pair planned for the M1 in 2015.
Work has already started on the M2 project and is expected to be complete by March 2015.
There will be 60 full-time positions in each service station on opening, including managers and sales assistants, with an additional 250 construction workers contracted on each site for the length of the building project.
Robert Etchingham, chief executive officer for Applegreen, said that Northern Ireland was a key part of the company's expansion plans.
The firm has 12 motorway service areas on the island of Ireland – with two based on the Belfast to Dublin route, as well as additional locations throughout the south.
"We are constantly looking for new sites to build and acquire, and although the motorway network in the north has significantly improved in recent years, there is still a shortage of service areas on these major routes," he said.
"We have already received a lot of support from consumers in the north who know the uniqueness of the Applegreen brand and we are confident that we can build and improve on what is currently being offered."
The new motorway service area will have 16 car fuelling points, a HGV fuelling area, Burger King drive-thru, Applegreen convenience shop, Applegreen's own 'Bakewell' cafe and a Subway restaurant. There will also be a business units, as well as indoor and outdoor children's play areas, bathroom facilities, and ample car, coach and HGV parking.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said that the multi-million pound investment would be good for the economy, for Northern Ireland motorists and for jobs. "These large scale investment applications were turned around in just under four months," he said.