A major arterial route in south Belfast is set to remain closed for at least two more weeks after further underground voids were detected by Northern Ireland Water staff.
Northern Ireland Water said urgent work to repair the first void discovered while carrying out sewer replacement work on the east Belfast arterial route was almost complete.
But CCTV footage of subterranean pipework has revealed that at least one further void is present and will need to be repaired.
"Following consultation with Transport NI (DRD), it was agreed for safety reasons that a section of the Ravenhill Road will be closed until this essential work is completed.
"The length of the affected road is approximately 65 metres and this will be reduced on an ongoing basis as the work progresses," a NI Water spokesman said. "As always in these instances the safety of the travelling public is our number one priority and we will continue to work closely with our colleagues in Roads Service to ensure that inconvenience is kept to an absolute minimum.
"We do, however, appreciate that this will still cause difficulties for motorists using this busy route and will therefore be working to complete this work as quickly as possible.
"This has to be balanced with the needs of local residents.
"NI Water is grateful to customers and commuters in the area for their patience and understanding while this urgent repair work is carried out."
Cars that normally use the Ravenhill Road are now being diverted to the Ormeau Road where they are funnelled into a single lane as a result of bus lane operations at rush hour and on-street parking outside those times.
Staff at The Conservation Volunteers were delayed for work at their headquarters on Ravenhill Road because of the diversions.
PUP councillor Dr John Kyle has called for the bus lanes in the area to be suspended while the obstruction on the Ravenhill Road remains in place.
"Bus lanes should not be a sacred cow. In exceptional circumstances we need to take exceptional measures," he said.
The Department of Regional Development said the closure was an emergency response situation after the road suffered an unexpected underground collapse.
"Contractors are working to complete the repairs as soon as possible," a spokesperson said.
"Traffic volumes are much lower than usual during the summer months and therefore we feel it is not necessary for any measures such as removing bus lanes. Bus lanes are essential for the easy movement of buses and cyclists.
"We will be monitoring traffic flows and considering whether any further steps are necessary.
"The Ravenhill Road, one of the busiest commuter routes in Belfast, is closed from the Ormeau roundabout as far as the embankment.
"The road is closed between the Rosetta roundabout and Ormeau embankment to facilitate suitable diversion routes.
"Whilst the work is currently in the vicinity of Park Road it would not be appropriate to divert traffic through the residential streets that are closer to the works."
He added: "Access for local traffic along the Ravenhill Road has been maintained. The Ormeau Embankment is the most appropriate diversion route for out-of-town traffic."
"Voids under roads are usually caused by water leaking from a pipe, slowly washing sediment away and leaving a void behind. There is usually nothing on the surface to raise awareness of an issue unless it is somehow discovered. You have to solve the cause of the void. Filling the hole is not enough – it will just reform. It might take a lot longer to do that."
Roads enthusiast Wesley Johnston