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More bus lanes not the answer

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 31/07/2015

One of the bus lanes at Great Victoria Street, Belfast, where cameras have resulted in car drivers being penalised
One of the bus lanes at Great Victoria Street, Belfast, where cameras have resulted in car drivers being penalised

It seems that the Department for Regional Development is determined to continue its war of attrition against motorists to free Belfast's streets of cars. Its weapon of choice is the creation of bus lanes, some 63 of them covering 30 miles.

The aim is simple - to force motorists to leave their cars at home or in park and ride car parks and use public transport more extensively.

Those in charge of planning our transport system believe this is the only way to beat congestion. Belfast has the unenviable title of the most congested city in the UK, according to traffic information company TomTom.

The layout of the city is largely to blame, with every main route running into the centre like the spokes of a wheel. That means there is nowhere for vehicles to go to avoid traffic jams, especially during the peak morning and evening rush hours.

While the idea of encouraging more people onto public transport looks good in theory, commuters here are reluctant to abandon their cars for either buses or trains.

And the introduction of more and more bus lanes, often in an apparently haphazard fashion, only creates more resistance from motorists.

The latest addition to the bus lane network, due to come into operation in 10 days, highlights the problem. It will be on one of the city's main arterial routes, the Upper Newtownards Road, which is already a congestion blackspot.

The transport planners obviously hope that cutting down the space for motorists at peak times will force them to rethink their travel options, but that may be a vain hope.

Certainly, the atmosphere has not been helped by the fact that this lane is being created without any consultation with local people. This is a burgeoning district with many new businesses setting up shop there, but if motorists are driven away from the area it could have a detrimental effect on trade. At the very least DRD should have taken some sort of straw poll of local opinion.

The ever growing bus lane network carries some risk for the city. Motorists - apart from those who have to enter the city for work - may become so disenchanted that they simply drive off to neighbouring towns which are more car friendly and avail of their retail and entertainment provision. This war of attrition between public transport and cars needs to be tempered with some more common sense.

Belfast Telegraph

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