He is the man who helped to revolutionise Dublin’s chaotic transport network. Now he has declared war on Belfast’s car drivers.
Ciaran de Burca has worked for the Department for Regional Development for almost four years, and has been the one left explaining what has caused the gridlock jamming the city’s roads this week.
His official title is director of transport projects, and he is responsible for revamping the city centre’s transport system.
Mr de Burca, a chartered engineer by profession and a Fel
low of Engineers Ireland, has worked in the transport industry for many years. Previously he was involved with Dublin City Council’s Luas project team.
He insists he is not trying to create a disincentive for motorists who use Belfast city centre, but he does want to slash the estimated 18,000 vehicles who pass through it each day en route to another destination.
His idea is to get those who use the car for short journeys to walk or cycle.
Mr de Burca is leading by example, and said he walked to work yesterday. He takes the bus most other days.
So who is he and where did he come from?
When contacted yesterday, he declined to comment, saying: “Sorry, I’m not taking any calls from the Belfast Telegraph.”
DRD was also reluctant to discuss his background.
But according to its website, Mr de Burca has a wide range of experience in managing, planning, designing and implementing major transportation policies and projects.
He joined the Strategic Investment Board in 2009 as director of the Belfast Rapid Transit Project and is based within DRD.
At the time, then Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy said Mr de Burca brought a wide range of valuable public transport experience to the rapid transit project. Mr de Burca himself said he intended to introduce a world-class rapid transit system in Belfast.
“I believe this new transport system will deliver a step change in the quality of public transport in Belfast,” he said in 2009.
Other transportation projects under his remit include Belfast On The Move, Public Transport Reform, E-Car/Plugged in Places, Park & Ride and the Active Travel Demonstration Projects.
The Belfast Rapid Transit project aims to provide the city with a fast, reliable and modern public transport service.
His overall aim is to deliver a sustainable transport system – getting people out of their cars and onto public transport, thereby helping to reduce congestion and emissions.
Before moving North, he previously held the post of project manager for the Quality Bus Network Office in Dublin City Council. He was also project manager on Dublin City Council’s Light Rail Project Team, which assisted the Railway Procurement Agency in providing the city’s Luas system.
While generally viewed as a success, the Luas was not without controversy. It cost €728m and initially two separate, unconnected lines were built, with a 15-minute walk between them.
So he is no stranger to teething problems with new transport projects.
Speaking on the Nolan Show yesterday, Mr de Burca said 60% of the 30,000 vehicles travelling around the City Hall do not stop in the city centre.
His big plan is to move the traffic around the city rather than through it.
“We’ve got absolutely no problem with people who have to drive into the city to shop or to work — that’s what the city centre is for,” he told the programme. “We have to make the city a more liveable city.”
He rejected suggestions that it was about creating a disincentive for people to use cars. It isn’t deliberate disruption, he said, rather a “rebalancing” of limited city centre road space.
“What we’re trying to do is give people an option,” he added. “They’re welcome in the city centre if they have business in the city centre. We’ve no problem with that.”
The target, he added, is drivers going through the city and using it as a short cut.
Mr de Burca said he would like people to consider walking or cycling if their journey is one or two miles.
“I know not everyone will want to do that but we need to get some of the people to make this change,” he added.
Mr Burca said he walked into work yesterday. “Normally I get the bus but I actually walked in today because I needed to do some work on the way,” he added. “I drive around the city whenever I have to take long journeys, but generally I walk.”