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Balmoral Show: Traffic chaos still a big headache as some take more than three hours to make it out of car park

By Chris McCullough

Calls have been made for a railway halt or a new link road to be built to tackle traffic chaos at the Balmoral Show.

Northern Ireland's largest agricultural show moved to the Maze site outside Lisburn four years ago but has been beset by access problems.

Around £20m was pledged to develop link roads to the M1 three years ago, but the project has never received the full political backing it requires to proceed.

Adults pay £18 to gain entrance to the event, and parking cost £7, £2 of which goes to help fund the traffic management plan.

The weather has been exceptionally good this week prompting around 90,000 visitors to attend the agricultural extravaganza over its three-day duration.

On Thursday evening visitors were stuck in jams getting out of the site for up to three hours - one of them the president of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society.

Billy Robson, who turns 80 this year, said: "We had a huge attendance and people were staying on site longer due to the good weather.

"I left the showgrounds at 8pm and it took me one-and-a-half hours to make it to the road. Traffic was filtering in from a number of channels to exit at two main gates but the traffic was at a standstill.

"The traffic management in the showgrounds is our responsibility, but on the road it's up to the police to control.

"The staff inside were doing all they could to keep the traffic moving but there were just so many cars.

"A one-way system may be the answer in the future as well as a new link to the motorway, but the latter is out of our hands."

Some visitors reported waiting three hours to get off the site and blamed having to pay to leave the car park as one cause of the delays.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell was caught in delays both getting in and out on Thursday. He said: "I actually had trouble getting into the site on Thursday morning at 11.30am and was stuck in a queue for over an hour.

"I decided to leave the queue and go to Lisburn for some lunch and try later.

"I came back in the afternoon and got in ok.

"When I was leaving the show at 5.30pm I was also caught in a queue from car park C6. It took me over an hour waiting to get out.

"This problem is an annual one and needs addressing. I urge whoever the new Minister for Infrastructure is to make this a priority and sort it out.

"Something needs to be done to enhance the accessibility for the visitors. These horror stories of people waiting three hours to simply leave the site are hurting the event.

"I felt sorry for parents with young children in those cars stuck in the queue.

"The show was moved from south Belfast in order to improve the access but this has not been accomplished to date.

"The road network is the issue, so that really must be looked at immediately."

Concerns were also raised over the eventuality of an emergency at the event and how 999 services could access or exit with the traffic chaos.

A spokesman for the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation, which owns the 347-acre site that incorporates Balmoral Park, said: "We welcome the efforts the RUAS as show organisers have made in recent years to upgrade the levels of public transport to and from the show. The road link to the M1 proposed by the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation is dependent upon ministerial agreement."

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