Belfast council wants to scrap bus lanes which cause city centre chaos
Stormont officials are set to be invited to appear before a Belfast City Council committee to face questions over bus lanes which it has been claimed have brought traffic chaos to the city centre.
Department for Infrastructure officials will be asked to attend a meeting of the council's City Growth and Regeneration Committee to discuss the controversial bus lane arrangement at the back of Belfast City Hall. The restrictions currently ban all vehicles - apart from buses and emergency services - from being able to travel from Donegall Square East into Adelaide Street from 7am to 7pm.
However, the ban has been flouted so often that it has triggered millions of pounds worth of fines. Between June 2015 and August 2016, some 18,000 motorists broke the ban, resulting in £1m of fines.
Ulster Unionist councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon has claimed the arrangement causes travel chaos and proposed a motion, seconded by his party colleague Jim Rodgers, that the bus lane arrangements at the back of City Hall be scrapped.
They called for the council to order the Department for Infrastructure to end the ban and also remove an electronic warning sign.
Their motion was initially proposed at a meeting of the council on October 2, and then discussed at the City Growth and Regeneration Committee last Wednesday.
It voices "grave concerns" about traffic congestion in the city centre.
"A major source of the problem at peak times is the prohibition on vehicles (except buses and emergency services) going from Donegall Square East into Adelaide Street from 7am to 7pm This means that cars must either go into Chichester Street, turn right into Montgomery Street, then right into May Street and left into Adelaide Street, or use Donegall Square East, then Donegall Square South and Bedford Street to go in an eastern or south-eastern direction. There is no other reasonable way for vehicles to go from the west or south west of the City to the south and east, despite the description of the route as a rat run."
The motion also calls for the removal of the "large and unsightly electronic warning sign" in Donegall Square East, which would free up the traffic island on which it sits.
Mr Dudgeon told the Belfast Telegraph last night that the motion has now been approved by the council and a letter will be sent to the Department for Infrastructure, which will also invite departmental officials to appear before the committee to discuss "issues with traffic in the city centre and to clarify the reasons for the current traffic arrangements". Bus lanes were introduced in 2012 as part of the Belfast on the Move traffic plan. There are now more than 60 across the city. Since June 2015, motorists who drive in the lanes face a £90 fine, reduced to £45 if paid within two weeks.