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York Street Interchange: £100m roads project for Belfast on hold following Brexit vote

By John Mulgrew

A massive £100m road project aimed at helping solve Belfast traffic problems is now officially on hold following the EU referendum result, it can be revealed.

The York Street Interchange was intended to alleviate the city's increasing traffic problems, and the bulk of the cash needed to build it, around 40%, was due to come from the EU.

But it can now be revealed that the project is now on hold, and tenders for work have stopped.

A document released by Transport NI to potential bidders says work is now “on hold”.

The upgrade of the York Street Interchange in Belfast aims at addressing the traffic gridlock which occurs daily at the busy junction.

It's been in planning since 2009, was announced in 2015, and is expected to cost up to £165m.

As Northern Ireland's busiest junction, it carries 100,000 vehicles each day, mostly commuters to and from Belfast from around Co Antrim.

A list from Transport NI indicates a total of 34 projects in which the tender process has already been completed, or a target date has been set.

But the York Street project is the only one which is now on hold.

A spokesman for the Department for Infrastructure, told the Belfast Telegraph: "The Minister has a range of capital priorities including four Executive flagship projects. Progress on these will be determined by the scale of resources available to him from the forthcoming Budget process.

“As a result as the published procurement plan states, the procurement in relation to the York Street project is currently on hold."

Responding to an Assembly question last month, Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, said he planned to “make an announcement with regard to the Public Inquiry within the next few weeks and this will inform the progress towards construction for this project”.

And the latest blow comes as it's been revealed Belfast is now the third most congested city in the UK.

Drivers in the UK are stuck in traffic for up to 12 days a year, according to new figures.

Inrix, a traffic information company, used real-time data over four years in a study for the Sunday Times. It established average speeds and congestion levels in 18 urban areas to calculate the hours lost in congestion.

London drivers in 2015 were the worst affected and found to be stuck in jams for an average of 101 hours a year - up from 72 hours in 2012 - a 40% increase.

Greater Manchester was second with 51 hours lost to drivers in 2015, up from 45 in 2012.

And Belfast drivers were found to have spent 38 hours in traffic delays in 2015, compared to 31 in 2012 - a 22% increase.

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