Belfast rapid transit Glider bus revealed ... but passengers face walk to transport hub
Passengers on the new Translink Glider buses unveiled yesterday will have to walk up to half a kilometre to the Belfast Transport Hub.
The £90m Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme from the Department for Infrastructure is due to start next September.
It will introduce a new fast bus-based system linking the east and west of the city, as well as the Titanic Quarter.
Yesterday, the new buses were launched at a glitzy ceremony in Belgium by Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister.
A second planned scheme expected to cost £175m, the Belfast Transport Hub, is set to replace the Europa Bus Centre and Great Victoria Street train station, the aim being to improve public transport in the city.
However, the Glider buses will not come within 380 metres of the hub, and some will stop more than 500 metres away.
Transport campaigner Jonathan Hobbs, who edits the Bikefast website, said the failure to connect the two schemes was ridiculous.
He posted on his website: "Instead of rapid transit pulling up at the front door of the hub, a passenger from Dublin with mobility issues will have BRT stops 379m away (for the Falls Road) or 540m away (for Titanic or east Belfast)".
A Belfast Transport Hub environmental statement published in June indicated that "the proposed BRT routes will not be incorporated into the transport hub development or the immediate vicinity of the transport hub site".
The statement added the hub would encourage more people to use public transport while only "acknowledging" BRT.
Mr Hobbs said an easy solution would be to add an extra loop to the BRT routes - going anti-clockwise around the Grosvenor Road, Durham Road and Great Victoria Street - taking passengers past the front door of the hub.
He claimed, however, that the department lacked the backbone to see this through and was frightened of angering motorists.
The campaigner also claimed the hub plan failed cyclists because there were no cycle lanes leading to it and no provisions for secure cycle parking.
"Keeping BRT separate from the transport hub is a massive fail," he said.
"Letting the reconfiguration of an entire city quarter slip by with no rolling out of safe cycling infrastructure is a massive fail.
"Enabling at least the existing volume of vehicle traffic to circulate this area, and by design or error inviting even more, is a massive fail."
However, a spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure defended the plans.
They said the proposals were produced after a lengthy public consultation and stressed that a possible second phase of the BRT scheme, linking the north and south of the city, could have closer links to the transport hub.
"The BRT aims to deliver a fast and direct cross-city service between east and west Belfast, also linking to Titanic Quarter," the spokesperson said.
"The department responded to a public consultation to change the westerly route from Grosvenor Road to Divis Street to meet the local demand for the service.
"New BRT halts will be operating a short distance from the Hub on College Square East and Wellington Place."
The spokesperson added that, subject to funding and the successful rollout of the initial scheme: "BRT Phase 2 aims to link north and south Belfast, encompassing the City Hospital and Queen's University, and will present an opportunity to consider further integration with the proposed transport hub on Great Victoria Street."
They also insisted the department and Translink consulted extensively, including with the Inclusive Mobility Transport Advisory Committee, to ensure the new service was "accessible as possible" for all passengers.
The department also worked with cycling and pedestrian charity Sustrans, a leading transport charity and members of the Gilder stakeholder forum.