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As wraps come off Belfast bus and rail hub plan, bridge battle goes on

By Rebecca Black

A community group has vowed to continue to fight against the removal of an historic bridge in south Belfast to make way for a new transport terminal.

Translink yesterday unveiled revised proposals for its Belfast Hub following months of public consultation - but the bridge will still face the axe.

The transport operator said it received almost 2,000 responses to its consultation, which started last August, with the majority (88%) voicing support for the "principle of the new integrated public transport hub" built close to the current Europa Bus Centre and Great Victoria train station complex.

Translink said its consultation feedback raised a series of issues, including access for people with impaired mobility; cycling infrastructure provision; contemporary versus traditional design; traffic planning and parking provision, local history recognition, and management of the construction phase.

A controversial aspect of the design is the plan to flatten a section of the site, requiring the removal of the historic Boyne Bridge, which dates back to 1932.

It's the most recent bridge to span that section of the now culverted Blackstaff River dating back as far as 1642.

Billy Dickson set up the Boyne Bridge Defenders to fight the plans.

He said he and his group were disappointed to see the new proposals, which would still result in the loss of the landmark.

"The removal of the bridge is clearly still part of their proposals," he said.

"We do not think it necessary to remove the bridge for the plans and we submitted our own proposal to Translink showing how you could do it, and make the Boyne Bridge part of it.

"We will continue to fight to save the Boyne Bridge."

Translink has defended the move by saying its plans will regenerate the area and form the nucleus of a new 'station quarter' in the city.

A spokeswoman previously told the Belfast Telegraph that it was mindful of preserving local heritage and planned to commission archaeologists to examine the site of the bridge to search for artefacts. Translink has now launched another phase of consultation to allow the public to respond to the proposed design of the hub, which incorporates changes based on previous feedback.

Group chief executive Chris Conway said: "This world-class Belfast Hub development will energise our city and become the main transport hub for Northern Ireland. It will act as a catalyst for regeneration, connecting and inspiring more people to live and work here.

"This is an innovative and ambitious project that will provide a gateway to Belfast for commuters and tourists; a main bus and train connection point for all parts of Northern Ireland and the main rail link to Dublin, including direct connections to all major airports in Belfast and Dublin."

He said the current site sees more than eight million annual visitors, and he expects the new site will increase this figure to 13m, and encourage more commuters to use public transport, as well as cycle and walk.

Public feedback can be submitted online via www.translink.co.uk/thehub or at public events and workshops from February 27 to March 10 at the Europa Bus Centre Belfast.

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