Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Belfast's longest car park: Ormeau Road grinds to halt as bus lanes and roadworks take toll

Gridlock: chaos on the Ormeau Road

It's one of Belfast’s busiest commuter routes, but motorists are being left to fume in their cars as rush hour journey times have recently tripled.

Roadworks and the recent traffic changes are being blamed for the virtual gridlock on the Ormeau Road every morning and evening.

Drivers using the route in south Belfast have seen their commute times vastly increased, with some finding the last stretch of their journey into the city centre rising from 15 minutes to 45.

The continuing upheaval comes after the Belfast On The Move initiative saw the morning rush hour grind to a complete halt when introduced last month.

The project aims to improve the transport network, but has had a problematic start, with many people claiming that it was making traffic problems worse while doing nothing to improve the public transport network.

There are now traffic counts taking place around the city centre, with one count located between the Gasworks and Cromac Street at the bottom of the Ormeau Road, but the results of these will not be known for several weeks.

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy will be making an announcement in the coming weeks on whether roadworks in the Belfast area will be stopped in the run-up to Christmas and free on-street car parking offered.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said: “Roadworks need to be put on hold until after Christmas, including utilities, to ensure problems are not compounded.

“Our office is based on the Ormeau Road and we regularly see congestion. The problem there is starting to worry me.”

Rev Morris Gault from Cooke Centenary Church, based at Park Road, off the Ormeau Road, said that he had recently noticed a definite increase in traffic jams.

“There does seem to be a build-up of traffic in the morning,” he said. “There is a knock-on effect from May Street. My wife is having to leave for work in Carrickfergus 40 minutes early.”

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said yesterday’s second meeting of the group set up to examine the impact of Belfast On The Move was “useful”.

“We are keen to pull together to make Belfast as accessible as possible and make Belfast On The Move Work,” the council spokesman said.

A Department for Regional Development (DRD) spokesman said: “Department officials will continue to work closely with stakeholders in relation to the Belfast On The Move project for the benefit of all those who live, work or shop in the city centre.

“Roads Service continues to monitor traffic and in the last few weeks the level of congestion in the city centre has been reduced and traffic flows have improved.”

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