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Fury after smash at Belfast junction where traffic lights were out of action

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 16/09/2015

Emergency services at the scene of a second crash on York Street yesterday where traffic signals were out
Emergency services at the scene of a second crash on York Street yesterday where traffic signals were out
The traffic lights are situated at the York Street and Frederick Street crossroads

There has been an angry public reaction after one of Belfast's busiest junctions was left without working traffic lights for nearly 24 hours yesterday - and a driver was almost killed.

Motorists and pedestrians were left stunned and frustrated with the traffic congestion and near misses throughout the day at the York Street and Frederick Street crossroads, close to the Ulster University city campus.

But there was also a more serious incident. A woman motorist had to be cut from her damaged Ford Fiesta by emergency services after her car collided with a Renault at around 4pm - an hour before electricity was restored to the traffic lights at 5pm.

And the fact that there was a minor collision involving two cars earlier in the day prompted motorists to demand why there was no one directing traffic.

Last night the Belfast Telegraph learned that the PSNI alerted the Department of Regional Development about the broken traffic lights at 8.30pm on Sunday night.

However, it was not until 10.50am on Monday that DRD's signal maintenance company identified the problem as a fault in the underground power supply to the lights.

While Northern Ireland Electricity was told about the fault at 11am, its engineers were not on site to carry out a repair until around 2pm.

Shop worker Leasa Brady was at the scene to comfort the woman trapped in her car. She said it was lucky that no one had been killed.

"I work right beside the junction and all I could hear all day was car horns honking all day and there were so many near misses. We were just waiting on an accident happening," said Leasa. "I don't understand why there was no police there to direct the traffic. Who's responsibility is it anyway? Yesterday was disgraceful."

Tracy Taylor contacted the Belfast Telegraph last night to complain about the lack of traffic management.

She said: "I cannot believe that police/traffic wardens were not placed here all day. I know there have been budget cuts but surely this was a very serious issue at such a busy junction.

"I find it so horrendous that a second accident was allowed to happen. We all pay taxes and don't expect this type of shoddiness from our services".

A DRD spokeswoman said traffic wardens have no responsibility for traffic management.

Asked if DRD could request support from police in these situations and if it was requested on Monday, the department said it "did liaise on several occasions during the course of the day."

PSNI Inspector Kelly Moore said: "While we are aware that Transport NI issued a series of traffic and travel updates warning the traffic lights were not working, we would take this opportunity to remind the public in this situation, road users should adhere to the Highway Code, rule 176 which states, 'If the traffic lights are not working, treat the situation as you would an unmarked junction and proceed with great care'."

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