Belfast Telegraph

Plan to cut Belfast car traffic

Car traffic around parts of Belfast's city hall will drop to two lanes to encourage motorists to bypass the city centre.

Northbound vehicles will be diverted and there will be almost 1.9 miles of new bus lanes. Extra cycling space and pedestrian crossing points will also be created, the Department for Regional Development said.

Around 30,000 vehicles a day travel through the city centre on streets either side of the city hall and 60% is through traffic. Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy wants to reduce car volumes by 10%.

The masterplan could be introduced in 2011/12 but depends on £5 million funding. Public consultation on the proposals closes on November 30.

Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy said: "For the city centre to thrive people need to be able to access goods and services swiftly and efficiently and public transport will play an increasingly important role in this as non-essential traffic is redirected away from the central area."

The plan envisages bus lanes at Wellington Place, Chichester Street, May Street and Howard Street near the city hall. Northbound through traffic would be re-routed onto Hope Street and Durham Street with southbound cars continuing to use Great Victoria Street.

The area around the Europa bus station is very congested. Translink has to keep extra buses near the city hall because its buses are regularly trapped in busy traffic.

Officials believe measures which include an extra bus lane could leave Great Victoria Street quite busy for cars. Hope Street would become two-way as traffic is encouraged to the west of the city centre. Durham Street would become one-way northbound and Grosvenor Road one-way westbound. College Square North would become one-way eastbound.

There would be over 40 dedicated disabled parking bays. There will be priority measures for public transport, taxis and cyclists. A total of 20 new pedestrian crossing points will be created.

SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt said the minister was not doing enough. "The minister has spoken often about prioritising sustainable transport but he needs to move beyond that and start investing in it," he added. "With the cycling budget facing a 90% cut and his own Regional Transportation Strategy targets for public transport being missed by a huge margin, the signs are not good."

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