Belfast's first ‘park and share’ scheme — which boasts 726 spaces and cost nearly £8m — has been branded a “half-baked project” doomed to failure.
SDLP regional development spokesman Conall McDevitt has raised concerns about the new car park at Cairnshill on the Saintfield Road which has seen just a handful of motorists through its gates since opening on Monday.
The South Belfast MLA believes the project is doomed to failure because of the lack of ‘park and ride’ provision for anyone wanting to use public transport after dropping off their car.
The new facility opened on Monday morning to allow commuters — who want to car share the rest of the route through south Belfast into the city centre — somewhere to park free of charge.
“The project will fail as a park and share,” Mr McDevitt said.
“There is no infrastructure or communication system in place to support it.
“The only way it will work is if a bus operator is appointed this year to provide park and ride.”
Killyleagh man Holmes Jackson (50) works in the Social Security Agency in Belfast city centre. He was the only motorist using the facility when the Belfast Telegraph visited on Tuesday evening.
He said the facility saved parking fees, but not time.
“My overall journey time hasn’t been cut really, because it still takes the bus about 35 minutes to get to Cairnshill from the city centre.
“It’s the Dundrum bus and it takes a route around the university area of south Belfast before heading up the Ormeau Road.
“A more direct bus route would be useful.”
Transport Minister Conor Murphy announced at the end of July that the facility would open as a park and share “in the interim” and that a public tender to provide bus services would follow soon.
“I hope to be able to announce the outcome of that procurement exercise in the autumn,” Mr Murphy said.
Mr McDevitt accused the minister of “failing to make public transport a priority”.
“There needs to be a quality bus corridor in place between the new facility and the city centre.
“At £8m, with no park and ride provision, it’s just an extremely expensive car park and that’s not acceptable. That’s not why it was built.”
A Department for Regional D evelopment spokesman defended the facility. “Experience has shown that it takes time for patronage to build on any site. By opening now the department hopes that people will have the chance to become familiar with the concept of park and share and park and ride on this corridor in advance of a dedicated bus service,” he said.
When revamped as a park and ride, the facility will be the sixth such facility to open on the fringes of Belfast and it’s hoped that it will relieve congestion on the arterial routes into the city from the southern direction.
The new scheme provides more than 700 car parking spaces, along with a terminal building on the A24 Saintfield Road at its junction with Purdysburn Road.
Access will be provided at two locations on the Purdysburn Road and by a new signalled junction o n the Saintfield Road.