Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Belfast planners insist bus lane measures will work once they have bedded in

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Everybody who commutes to and from Belfast city centre is affected to some extent by its ever-increasing number of bus lanes and changing road layout.

The second phase of Belfast On The Move is ongoing with road chiefs insisting revised transport links will alleviate congestion in the long-term.

Those behind the project say their aim is to reorganise traffic management within Belfast city centre to help reduce traffic levels in general and encourage greater walking, cycling and public transport use.

They say the measures will ultimately free up street space for those using alternative means of travel as well as motorists who need to drive into Belfast for shopping, work or leisure. But opponents say it is an aggressive ploy to deter motorists and force them into using public transport.

Traders have also been highly critical, claiming the scheme has adversely affected business.

The first phase of the project, which falls under the Department for Regional Development's Sustainable Transport Enabling Measures programme, began last year and caused chaos in the heart of Belfast, particularly in September.

Among the changes was the opening of bus lanes at Oxford Street, Donegall Square North, Howard Street and May Street. The work at May Street sparked an angry backlash from commuters and retailers who complained of traffic jams.

Linenhall Street from James Street South to Donegall Square South was made one-way northbound.

There were also changes in the road network from Alfred Street to May Street, the Grosvenor Road/Durham Street junction, Sandy Row/Hope Street junction, Hope Street and College Avenue.

Amid the controversy a multi-agency group was set up to tackle the congestion and address the concerns it had raised.

A bus lane was this month set up on College Avenue and College Square East between Millfield and Wellington Place.

The Department for Regional Development has made numerous references to a "bedding-in" period for the new layouts.

The department claims the new measures have had no significant impact on journey times through the city centre, adding there is no evidence to suggest the changes have deterred car-borne shoppers.

Roadworks continue on Great Victoria Street, Fisherwick Place and Grosvenor Road, with new works recently started on Wellington Place and Donegall Square East before resurfacing.

Traffic islands are being built for new arrangements in College Square East and Fisherwick Place, with drainage works progressing in Wellington Place and Donegall Square East. On completion of the work at Fisherwick Place a further bus lane, some 100m in length, will be introduced for buses turning right into Wellington Place. This is expected to be in operation by Wednesday.

As this bus lane is remote from the kerbline, similar to the bus lane in Oxford Street, the lane will be fully surfaced in red material to highlight its presence. There will be one general traffic lane northbound and one general traffic lane into Wellington Place either side of the new bus lane.

Tomorrow sections of Great Victoria Street will be closed from 7am until 1pm.

Bus lanes will also be introduced at Donegall Square North and Chichester Street.

A two-way cycle track from Victoria Street to Oxford Street will be introduced at Ann Street.

All works on the second stage are set to be completed by June.

Bus lanes for Belfast On The Move are operational from 7am until 7pm from Monday to Saturday and can be used by public transport, cyclists, motorcycles and permitted taxis.

Electronic signage has been erected in a number of key locations to advise of the works.

Roads Service also advised motorists to allow extra time for their journeys.

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