Belfast Telegraph

Traffic in city on road to nowhere

By Gail Walker

Belfast On The Move? It was hard to suppress a grim chuckle at the mordant irony as the city's traffic ground to a halt due to the posturing of our leaders.

On the surface, the initiative looks good, involving the closure of lanes to ordinary traffic in favour of buses. Encouraging public transport, cycling and walking seems great on paper. Only a Jeremy Clarkson-type motor freak could be against it.

Except, of course, real life isn't so straightforward. Private motorists aren't the problem; gesture politics is the problem.

They do it in England and the Continent. Therefore, the reasoning goes, it's okay for us. Except over there they believe in joined up thinking.

Here, closing a lane simply clogs up Belfast, makes thousands late for work, delays deliveries to shops, prevents customers getting in to buy.

After last week expect a sharp rise in internet shopping from those who'd normally come in to town to shop.

That's cash lost from an already desperate high street. If the delays stretch into Christmas the outlook for many independent shops is grim indeed.

Rattled by the debacle, our politicians blamed the bad weather - as if that's a rare occurrence. Perhaps Stormont will now outlaw rain and everything will flow smoothly? The truth is, closing lanes to private cars implies a heavier investment in transport - more buses, cheaper fares, more integrated services, timetables more suited to the way we live today.

Yes, Translink are in the process of buying 129 new buses but that's about it; public spending on transport is set to decrease by 85% over the next few years.

So, an already dilapidated traffic system will be even more constipated by lost lanes, fewer and slower road repairs, and a public transport system largely ungeared to cope with a substantial increase in users. Anyone with a titter of wit could see this.

The reason why people use their own cars is because doing so is more convenient than public transport. And it will stay that way until there is a greater investment in buses (and trains - vast expanses of Northern Ireland are inaccessible by rail).

As things stand Belfast On the Move is literally going nowhere.

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