New Belfast bus lane blamed as business shuts due to parking restrictions
Controversial new bus lanes come into operation in west Belfast today and already at least one business on the Falls Road has decided to close its doors because of new parking restrictions that will hit its customers.
Bus lanes between McKinstry Road roundabout and the city centre will start operating this morning ahead of the start of the Belfast Rapid Transit Glider service, which begins in early September.
The new service has already faced criticism from the owner of the the Little Mexican Deli on the Falls Road who said it has had to close because of restrictions on parking imposed by the new bus lanes.
The restrictions would prevent customers parking outside the shop and will hit their revenue, the owners said.
It's understood the owners will now concentrate their efforts on their other outlet at the Dairy Farm Shopping Centre on the Stewartstown Road.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts has also criticised the restricted parking times for their potential effect on small retailers.
Mr Roberts said he hoped there wasn't an over-zealous approach to fines for motorists as the lanes come into force.
"We have said in the past that the high numbers of fines for drivers straying into the bus lanes is worrying," he said.
When the Glider system becomes operational on September 3, the route in west Belfast will run between McKinstry Road roundabout and the city centre, via Stewartstown Road, Colin Connect Transport Hub, Andersonstown Road, Falls Road and Divis Street.
It will continue from there through to Dundonald in east Belfast.
The bus lanes on the Stewartstown Road, Andersonstown Road, Falls Road and Divis Street will operate from 7am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday.
This includes a loading/unloading window between 10am and 2pm and a facility for vehicles displaying a blue badge to stop for up to 10 minutes to drop-off or pick up a blue badge holder.
Drivers are currently in training for the new Glider buses.
The new service is the culmination of years of work, West Belfast MLA Alex Maskey told the Belfast Telegraph last night.
"It's a big change. People will be worried.
"However, we'll just have to wait and see how thing go when it's fully operational."
Mr Maskey said a huge amount of work had been put into making the new service a success.
He also thanked everyone involved for their patience as the infrastructural works were carried out.
Mr Maskey added there would potentially be some teething problems.
But he added that with a little goodwill on all sides, plus careful management and responsiveness to any community concerns about the implementation, the new transport arrangements and vehicles would be of great benefit to the people of the city.
"There's been an enormous amount of outreach work and preparation done over the past few years, the MLA said.
"Inevitably, there will be some teething problems that'll emerge once the new system is up and running.
"But we have to make it work."