Belfast's sinkhole Malone Road reopens in time for new school term
Transport NI are probing the cause of the road hole
A key arterial route close to one of Belfast's largest schools reopened last night - just in time for the start of the new term.
The Malone Road was closed on Sunday between Eglantine Avenue and Wellington Park following the appearance of a hole in the surface, leading to fears of subsidence.
Last night a TransportNI spokeswoman said the hole had been repaired.
Local SDLP MLA Claire Hanna welcomed the reopening of the road, saying that there had been some anxiety over whether it would remain closed today as commuters returned to work and pupils went back to school.
"It's a big relief," she said. "This is a key piece of infrastructure in south Belfast and further afield for getting people into the city, and if it had have been closed on Tuesday morning, we know how paralysed that route can get."
Roads expert Wesley Johnston said the hole may have been forming for months.
"There were a number of similar incidents on Cromac Street a few years ago, and on the Ravenhill Road," he said.
"Generally speaking, they are not uncommon in Belfast. They are caused by water moving underground - sometimes from a leaking water pipe or sometimes by ground water.
"It slowly removes silt, soil and sand, and creates a void. If that eventually works its way up to the surface the road will be sitting on top of nothing and crack. I don't think anything has been publicly said about this hole, but I think it may be similar to previous ones."
Much of Belfast was built on bogland, and Mr Johnston said the fine silt can be easily washed away.
"These can be difficult to detect. You would have to put some kind of piece of machinery on top of the hole and do soundings, and you can't realistically do that on the whole road network," he said.