New bus lanes set to be introduced in Ballyhackamore, east Belfast next week
New bus lanes will be introduced on the Upper Newtownards Road next Monday as part of the Belfast Rapid Transit scheme.
The new bus lanes - located between Holywood Arches and Sandown Road - will be introduced on Monday June 27.
They will operate, city-bound and country-bound, during peak hours only, from 7.30am to 9.30am and from 3.30pm to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday.
The new bus lanes are an extension to the existing bus lanes on the Upper Newtownards Road and will provide increased priority for buses on this key public transport route.
The Department for Infrastructure have claimed this will mean a faster, more efficient service.
However the scheme has attracted criticism in the past with former Ukip MLA David McNarry claiming it risked turning the morning and evening rush-hours into an all-day problem.
Traders have also criticised the new bus lanes claiming they will cause chaos.
But the Department for Infrastructure said the bus lanes already introduced have contributed to a significant increase in the use of public transport on the route, with around 4,000 additional passenger journeys per week.
A department spokesperson said: “This is another key step in the delivery of the Belfast Rapid Transit system. This vital infrastructure project will connect East Belfast, West Belfast and Titanic Quarter via the city centre.
“The new bus lanes will support a faster, more reliable bus service for people travelling along the Upper Newtownards Road. We have already seen a growing number of people switching to the bus on this key route and a modern, safe, efficient and high quality public transport service will increase this further.
“In order that motorists will have the opportunity to get used to the new arrangements we have introduced the bus lanes at the start of the summer months while traffic levels are traditionally lower.”
When the Belfast Rapid Transit system becomes operational in 2018 the route in east Belfast will run from Dundonald Park & Ride, via the Upper Newtownards Road and Albertbridge Road, to the city centre. It will continue from there through to the Colin area of West Belfast.
The department has asked drivers to take extra care when travelling on this stretch of the Upper Newtownards Road until they are familiar with the new arrangements.