Belfast Telegraph

A third ex-Belfast Lord Mayor calls for rethink on city's vexing bus lanes

By Chris Kilpatrick

Belfast's bus lanes are causing widespread confusion and traffic snarl-ups across the city, a former Lord Mayor has said.

Frustrated traders and motorists have led calls for a review of the controversial traffic system.

And Ukip councillor and former first citizen of Belfast, Bob Stoker, said they must be re-examined due to regular bottlenecks in the heart of the city.

He said the layout of some routes, including Great Victoria Street, was baffling motorists.

Mr Stoker urged the Department for Regional Development (DRD) to look again at the scheme.

"There should be a review," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Some of the bus lanes are working but others are causing difficulties.

"When people identify issues they should be looked at. The general opinion is we have bus lanes lying vacant most of the time.

"There are quite a lot of bottlenecks coming into the town. There are times I'm sitting in traffic and cars come down bus lanes as people don't know they are bus lanes."

His comments follow similar remarks made earlier this week by former Lord Mayors Jim Rodgers of the UUP and Gavin Robinson of the DUP.

DRD introduced the bus lanes on arterial routes in 2012 as part of its Belfast On The Move project.

It has insisted the scheme has been a success, cutting the number of cars travelling through Belfast every day by 11,000.

However, opponents of the programme say the city is more congested than ever.

Mr Rodgers said the bus lanes were "a nightmare".

He said traffic flow in Liverpool had improved significantly after the city scrapped all but four of its 26 bus lanes recently.

Chair of Stormont's regional development committee, DUP MLA Trevor Clarke, said if traders were expressing concern then the scheme had to be looked at, though he cautioned against knee-jerk reactions.

"There has been evidence before that footfall had actually increased," he said.

"I respect the view of the traders, though, and certainly if there is evidence it is affecting trading in Belfast I think it is something that has to be looked at.

"I think a wider view has to be taken.

"We need to see what evidence provided is correct."

Earlier this week Stephen Pollock from the DRD's TransportNI said the scheme had been a success.

"For the first time, more than half of people travelling into the city centre in the morning peak are travelling by sustainable transport methods such as bus, train, bike or walking," he claimed.

"Since its completion in 2013 more people are walking, cycling and using public transport for their journey into the city centre in the morning peak."

Story so far

Bus lanes were introduced in Belfast city centre in 2012 as part of the Department for Regional Development's Belfast On The Move programme. The scheme saw the installation of 2.6km of new bus lanes. The project gives priority to public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.DRD says the scheme has cut the number of cars travelling through Belfast every day by 11,000. However, opponents of the programme have said the city is more congested than ever.

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