Belfast Telegraph

Shaftesbury Square has potential as new public transport hub, report says

Belfast's dilapidated Shaftesbury Square could become a new public transport hub, an Executive report said.

More than 84,000 residents are connected with the city centre via its busy commuter routes.

It is in a "dismal" state, with extensive vacancy and building abandonment on all sides, the review said. It recommended slowing traffic speeds and providing safe pedestrian access plus rapid transit lanes.

The report added: "It is a bleak and hostile environment for all who pass through other than motorists.

"It should be of the highest priority to reclaim this as an attractive inner urban space, which is a hub of activity."

From Monday to Friday, 684 buses pass through the square each day, but stops have been pushed into neighbouring streets to the benefit of private motorists, a development framework published by the Communities Department said.

The review concluded: "Shaftesbury Square is a potential hub for public transport."

It is also very close to Botanic Station with its 80 stopping trains each week day and connections to the wider rail network.

The report said there was considerable merit in enhancing the existing station facilities.

It recommended simplifying traffic lanes and ensuring vehicle speeds are reduced to 20 mph. Others included:

:: Removing large traffic islands with no useful purpose.

:: Simplifying the arrangement of pedestrian crossings and minimising any potential conflict between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

:: Ensuring rapid transit vehicles are given precedence at all times over other road traffic.

:: Providing quality facilities for passengers using a rapid transit system within the heart of the square.

:: Removing all bus stops from adjoining streets and relocating them into a pair of stops in the centre of the square.

:: Providing dedicated cycle routes through its entire length from north to south.

It said parts of neighbouring Great Victoria Street were also in dismal condition, with extensive deterioration of buildings, high levels of vacancy and numerous cleared sites.

The report stated: "Where there has been redevelopment, many of the replacement buildings are hopelessly disjointed, almost of every imaginable mass, height, scale, form and detailing.

"The decay of the buildings is far advanced on a considerable length of the eastern side and while the western side is generally in use, it also has significant physical and functional problems.

"The setback of some more recent buildings is particula rly incongruous and discordant."

Pedestrians using the square found it a "hostile" environment, the report said, given the speed and volume of traffic.

It added: "In the context of increasing use of bicycles in the wider area along with the proposed local cycle hire scheme, Shaftesbury Square is an exceptionally hostile and hazardous place for cyclists.

"Only the bravest (some would suggest most foolhardy) take their chance cycling through this complex of junctions."

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