Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Balmoral visitors spared second day of jams as revamp eases congestion

The first day of the Balmoral Show in the new grounds of the old Maize Prison kicked off
The first day of the Balmoral Show in the new grounds of the old Maize Prison kicked off

Radical changes to traffic and parking arrangements meant thousands of visitors to the Balmoral Show experienced an almost pain-free journey to the new site after the first day of congestion.

A “rebalancing exercise” of traffic management proved mostly successful with organisers the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) saying “large crowds” flocked to the former Maze site yesterday.

It was also reported that parking charges at the new venue were not being strictly enforced.

There were still some hold-ups getting in — and out — of the show, but nothing on the scale of Wednesday’s traffic chaos that saw some people in jams for up to five hours.

However, some drivers reported being stuck for more than an hour trying to exit last night, with a few taking out their frustration on parking attendants.

One man said: “The show is magnificent and the new venue much better, but this access thing is ridiculous. I’ve been stuck here almost 90 minutes and the queue is not moving so I’ve just wound the window down to let the sun in and waiting until it clears.”

The changes came after it was claimed an estimated £20m has been “ringfenced” to develop a new road infrastructure surrounding the venue.

The Maze/Long Kesh development Corporation said plans are under way for two direct links from the motorway, one from Junction 8 at Sprucefield and another via slip roads directly from the west will be built.

Chairman of the corporation Terence Brannigan made his comments 24 hours after the traffic chaos that affected thousands of people travelling to Balmoral Park in Lisburn for the first day of the event.

Mr Brannigan said: “In line with Programme for Government commitments, ministers have confirmed that the infrastructure works that will enable further development at the Maze/Long Kesh Site will have high priority”.

Corporation chief executive Kyle Alexander told the Belfast Telegraph: “We are looking at creating two direct links from the motorway, one from Junction 8 at Sprucefield and the other via slip roads directly from the west.

“We have begun the environmental survey and other preparatory work, there will be ongoing consultation with the local community, local land owners and Lisburn City Council.”

He said it is the “top priority” of the Maze/Long Kesh development corporation board to deliver the works he described as “necessary”.

No time scale has been given for the process but Mr Brannigan said in 12 months’ time the situation “will not be the same”.

He said: “But let's not pretend that in 12 months’ time we are going to have two roads linking up to the motorway network.

“The work is going on now, as we speak, in respect of putting two links into the motorway, one from the east and one from the west.

“We are doing environmental studies now in order to get clearance. We will then have to go to planning and from that we will be able to build the two roads.

“The money has been ring-fenced so we can't complain that we haven't got the money.

“But there is a due process we have to go through. It’s frustrating, nonetheless it is a process we must go through.”

On Wednesday, First Minister Peter Robinson said he hoped any problems with access would be overcome.

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