East Belfast road works see traders pay the price
James Gant hears from businesses fed up with repairs
Traders on Northern Ireland's most dug-up road say the constant disruption has hit them hard. Over the last five years the near four-mile stretch of the Upper Newtownards Road in east Belfast has been fixed once every three days on average.
The summer months were particularly disruptive, and the impact is still being felt months down the line.
Bus lanes and the introduction of the new Glider service have also caused problems, locals say.
Adam McBeth (27), who works at McElroy's Fruit and Veg, said road works always lead to heavier traffic on what is already one of the city's busiest arterial routes.
"The road works in the summer were terrible, everything went right down. People, even when they have come up here, just didn't want to come in," he said. "A lot would think, 'Oh the road's closed, no point going up there'.
"They have taken a completely different route which has completely affected our trade."
Mr McBeth said they were relying on a bumper Christmas and New Year to try and win back some of the trade lost because of the unrelenting road works.
John Macaulay, who runs The Chip Bar, said: "Traffic has been very, very heavy, especially during the day.
"Come six, seven o'clock people have definitely avoided the area because of it and I don't know what has been done - and I have a car and I appreciate we need good roads, but the cost is on us.
"I have been here four years and it's every day, all the time, all up Dundonald Road and this road and never-ending.
"I don't know, but there has to be a better way to do it."
Butcher John Smyth, who runs Corries Farm Butchers, also feels businesses are paying a price from the constant repairs.
"I know it's definitely affected our footfall, there's no question about that," he said.
"The road works did affect us, we have a core business with people who are constant every week. Then again, it's passing trade which brings the money, but people can't get stopped.
"It's a simple equation: if I had more people stopping from just going past, then I know I could sell more stuff, but that just doesn't happened, whether it be weather or weather and traffic."
Mr Smyth said that sometimes further up the road has been shut down to one lane, which still affected him because people chose to take a different route home from the city centre.
"It doesn't have to be right outside the shop to affect you," he added.
"There has been a lot of road works going on along this road for the past two to two-and-a-half years, one way or another, and it's had a negative affect on the business."
But some traders were more annoyed by the introduction of the Gliders and 12-hour bus lanes last July.
Dave Kane (77), who has run a cycling shop on the road for 40 years, said: "We got rid of the road works which were really destroying us but then they brought in the bus lanes which scares some people.
"I think it's taking more people to outside-city shopping centres where there's more parking and they don't have anything restricting them, bus lanes or anything."
But he added: "We are still trading okay, we have been a long time here - clientele are going to come to us, but what we have lost is footfall."
However, Keith Shaw, from Kirks Home Bakery, said the revamped transport system has brought benefits to the area.
"I personally think that the bus service is working very well and because there's no off-street car parking here, it hasn't affected us in terms of trade because people have to walk here. From what I can see with the buses passing here every few minutes it seems to be going really well."
Local UUP councillor Peter Johnston said: "There is a major problem with infrastructure in Belfast and it's hitting the Upper Newtownards Road particularly hard.
"It's a pity all these road works couldn't have been done at the same time."