Belfast Telegraph

Commuters vent their fury after smash on Westlink brings Belfast to standstill

Traffic chaos in Belfast at rush hour on Wednesday following a multi-vehicle collision on the Westlink
Traffic chaos in Belfast at rush hour on Wednesday following a multi-vehicle collision on the Westlink
Traffic chaos in Belfast at rush hour on Wednesday following a multi-vehicle collision on the Westlink
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Belfast commuters have vented their frustration after a rush hour crash on the Westlink brought traffic in the city to a standstill.

The multi-vehicle crash occurred on Wednesday under a footbridge beside the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Many enraged motorists took to social media after an agonisingly slow journey home.

Alasdair Sim said: "Just in the door. Three hours from the Ormeau to Newtownabbey. Brutal."

Matty Carleton added: "I left the car park one hour ago. Four miles to my house from the car park but took me one hour to get home.

"I'm sorry Belfast, but you really need to sort your roads out, bus lanes add to the problem."

Another Twitter user, Kenny, said: "It's the same every time, it's like putting your thumb over the end of a hose when the Westlink stops working. Nowhere to go and chaos all round."

The roads expert and commentator Wesley Johnston said the Westlink was simply unable to handle the volume of rush hour traffic and suggested lowering the cost of public transport.

"More people are trying to use it during rush hour than can fit on it, so it's always operating at capacity during rush hour," he said.

"Despite the fact there was an upgrade 10 years ago, Roads Service said it still wouldn't be enough to eliminate congestion.

"So if you're running a road at 100% capacity, the slightest little thing will snarl it all up."

As it is situated along a densely populated area, he said there was little prospect of expanding the infrastructure.

He added: "Getting crashes cleared up quickly would definitely be a big help, but I don't know if that could have happened any quicker on this occasion.

"Providing alternative forms of transport is probably the only real solution.

"That won't reduce congestion, but it would help individual people who choose to use different modes of transport."

Mr Johnston said it would also be problematic to open up bus lanes to other road users in the event of similar delays.

"Where a bus lane ends you merge back into single lane traffic.

"So if everyone joins in the bus lane you'll still have congestion, but at another point.

"Another issue is that bus lanes are also used by cyclists. So if the Department for Infrastructure said they were opening the bus lanes because of a crash and a cyclist got killed, there would be hell to pay."

He added that those who had been convinced to use public transport could change their mind if cars were allowed back in.

Mr Johnston said Belfast already had an effective bus service, but lowering prices could coax more drivers out of their cars.

"For one thing you're charged per passenger in buses, whereas if you're in the car with your family it costs the same regardless of how many passengers."

The Department for Infrastructure was approached for comment but hadn't replied by the time of going to press.

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