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Commuters left seething after 4am Westlink pile-up was still causing gridlock during rush hour

By Claire McNeilly

Published 28/01/2016

Heavy traffic at Forestside in Belfast yesterday
Heavy traffic at Forestside in Belfast yesterday

Commuters have reacted angrily after an early morning five-vehicle pile-up paralysed rush hour traffic right across Belfast.

Three people were injuried in the collision on the country-bound lane of the Westlink at around 4am yesterday.

Police confirmed the smash involved one lorry, three vans and one car, and resulted in the contents of the four larger vehicles being scattered over a large stretch of road, along with other debris.

The route was closed between York Street and Divis Street for several hours during the clean-up operation, which caused major disruption and widespread jams for those on their commute to work.

A van driver, who was freed by firefighters using hydraulic cutting equipment and electric saws, was rushed to hospital with serious leg injuries.

Two others with injuries were also treated at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.

A Belfast Trust spokesman last night confirmed that two patients remain in a stable condition.

Another is believed to have been discharged.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service sent three of its emergency crews to the scene, while four fire engines also attended.

Stormont-based Press officer Sammy Morrison, who lives in Dromore, said his journey to Dundonald took 75 minutes more than normal.

"The traffic on the outskirts of Belfast was awful," he said.

"If there's an accident on one side of the city it seems to cause a ripple effect and somehow impacts on the whole road network.

"I was surprised to hear the accident had happened so early; I'd have thought it would have been cleared up by the time commuters were going to work."

For Sarah Fox (25), a public relations account executive from east Belfast, it took five times as long to get to her desk yesterday. "It's normally a 20-minute bus journey to get into the office in the city centre, but I ended up jumping out at a set of traffic lights and walking in," she said.

"The traffic wasn't moving at all and no one was going anywhere.

"Earlier this month it took me an extra 45 minutes to get home because of traffic congestion, but this incident was definitely the worst I've experienced.

"Belfast is just too congested.

"There are too many single drivers in cars.

"The roads would be a lot clearer if more people cycled or took the bus."

Frances McKee, a 44-year-old lab technician from Castlereagh, said that traffic in the city comes to a virtual standstill when there's a crash.

"It normally takes me half-an-hour to drive in to work from Castlereagh - yesterday it took an hour," she said.

"I'm sure I was sitting for a good 20 minutes at the lights at the top of the Castlereagh Road without moving at all.

"The city seems to grind to a halt every time there is an accident."

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