Roads bosses have done a U-turn over carrying out work at night in a city centre traffic congestion hot spot.
Drivers and commuters had been left frustrated by the massive delays caused by roadworks in central Belfast.
The misery for motorists stuck in daily traffic jams on the Great Victoria Street/College Avenue route towards Millfield was compounded when the Department for Regional Development (DRD) stubbornly refused to shift the roadworks to night-time.
But in a victory for common sense, it appears they eventually reversed their position, after work — which was due to be finished last night — was observed ongoing near Millfield at around 11.30pm on Monday night.
Businesses had also claimed that the disruption had led to a downturn in footfall, and traders last night welcomed the change of heart.
Glyn Roberts, of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said that lessons must be learned from the first phase of the Belfast on the Move project, which has been blamed for the severe disruption.
“I think they should have done this earlier,” he said.
“But the fact that they have made the change now is positive.
“I think in general terms, there is a lot more flexibility from DRD on the whole question of Belfast on the Move,” he added.
The DRD had said previously that night work would have resulted in extra financial costs.
“Considerations include availability of materials at night-time, the health and safety of the workforce and justification of the considerable additional cost that would be involved,” a spokeswoman said on October 2.
“We have to take account of the area that works are taking place in, and in the case of College Avenue, it is close to existing residential properties where night-time noise would be unacceptable.”
However, the department seemed to be heading down a new road with its explanation yesterday.
A DRD spokeswoman pointed to a reduction in “disruption to both motorists and pedestrians” as a result of carrying out the work at night.
However, the department has refuted any suggestion that it has performed a quiet U-turn.
A DRD spokeswoman said: “The work on College Avenue involves the resurfacing of the footpaths.
“The roadworks taking place around October 3 included much noisier machinery and would have contravened noise regulations,” she added.
She went on to say that the work, which included resurfacing work in the central reserve “does not breach noise regulations”.
The Belfast On The Move project hit the headlines at the end of September, when its first major test saw the morning rush-hour grind to a complete halt. Commuters faced misery after journeys of just a few miles took well over an hour.
Belfast On The Move is part of a multi-phased masterplan to improve the city’s transport network. Its aim is to create more space for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists — reducing space for motorists. Congestion in Belfast city centre earlier this month has since eased.