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More must be done to drive city forward

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 15/11/2016

The creation of 24-hour bus lanes in Belfast was always a nonsense given that public transport does not run in the city throughout the night
The creation of 24-hour bus lanes in Belfast was always a nonsense given that public transport does not run in the city throughout the night

The creation of 24-hour bus lanes in Belfast was always a nonsense given that public transport does not run in the city throughout the night. While there is a logic in having bus lanes to ease congestion in a city often choked with traffic, fining motorists for straying into the 24-hour lanes smacked more of a punitive action against drivers - or even, as the public perceives it, merely a money making ploy - than an initiative to help traffic flow more easily.

We welcome that common sense, as well as the publicity generated chiefly in this newspaper, has led to the operational hours of three of these all-night lanes being reduced.

We have consistently pointed out the huge sums of money generated by fining motorists who drive into bus lanes - it has now reached a staggering £2.7m - and the negative image that it gives of the city to those who wish to shop there.

And our report today that almost 700 drivers who cannot be traced - probably because they come from the Republic or Europe - have had their fines wiped out while local motorists continue to pay through the nose, undoubtedly will cause further public anger.

Of course, we accept that motorists must obey traffic laws and bus lanes are one way of easing traffic congestion. Belfast is the third most congested city in the UK and it is evident that its transport infrastructure needs to be upgraded.

It is heartening that one major scheme to ease traffic flow, the York Street interchange, is to be given the go ahead in principle today. Yet there are still major concerns where the finance for the £130m project will come from. The EU was to pay 40% of the cost, but Brexit has thrown doubt on that funding as nothing has yet been signed and the UK may have left Europe before the money becomes available.

Public transport also needs to be upgraded to ease congestion and make it easier for people to travel across town and not just along arterial routes.

Motorists can play their part by car sharing and making greater use of park and ride facilities.

Belfast is the major employment and shopping centre in the province and attracts huge volumes of traffic daily.

Many motorists are caught up in rush hour gridlock, especially coming into the city in the morning, and the Executive needs to get its sums right this time so that we have a road network and transport system fit for purpose - now and into the future.

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