Some bus lanes to operate 12 hours a day under new Belfast transit plan
Proposals have been put forward to extend the operating hours of bus lanes as part of the Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme on some of the city's busiest routes.
The £90m BRT system, which is scheduled to start in September 2018, is a bid to create a faster public transport route from west to east Belfast through the city centre.
Current bus lanes run from 7.30am to 9.30am and from 3.30pm to 6.30pm.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said: "This is for the Belfast Rapid Transit line, this is not for all bus lanes.
"We should remember in 2012 the business case for the Belfast Rapid Transit was built upon the concept that these would be 12-hour, 7am-7pm bus lane priorities. That is so we can have maximum compliance and avoid confusion."
In west Belfast the BRT system will link the city centre and Dunmurry Industrial Estate via Divis Street, Falls Road, Andersonstown Road, Stewartstown Road and a have new transport hub at Colin town centre.
And in the east it will link the city with Dunlady Road, Dundonald via the Albertbridge Road and Upper Newtownards Road. Elsewhere, it's due to connect the Titanic Quarter to the city across Queen Elizabeth Bridge, Queen's Quay and Queens Road to Titanic Quarter.
Mr Hazzard told Radio Ulster: "It's essential the vehicles have the highest degree of priority in and out of the city.
"Traffic does start to build up in the city. From 7am onwards, traffic control centre shows some of our main arterial routes start to get very busy. This is about moving people in and our of our city in the most efficient way possible."
Mr Hazzard says there will be two rounds of consultation and wants to find proposals for any issues the plans may have.
The consultation, which will deal with the entire BRT route on a section by section basis, is due to start in the next few months. A letter will be issued to residents and businesses along the BRT routes explaining the proposals.
"I realise that some of the proposed changes to the BRT bus lane operating hours and local waiting restrictions may cause issues for the people who live, work and travel along the BRT routes," he said.
"In recognition of this, my department will be carrying out local engagement to identify concerns and develop final proposals to address these, as far as reasonably practicable."