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Revealed: Plan to slash traffic in Belfast

Car traffic around parts of Belfast's city hall will drop to two lanes to encourage motorists to bypass the city centre, it was revealed today.

Northbound vehicles will be diverted and there will be almost 3km (1.9 miles) of new bus lanes. Extra cycling space and pedestrian crossing points will be created, the Department for Regional Development said.

Around 30,000 vehicles a day travel through the city centre on streets either side of the city hall and 60% is through traffic. Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy wants to reduce car volumes by a 10th.

The masterplan could be introduced in 2011/12 but depends on £5 million funding.

Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy said: "For the city centre to thrive people need to be able to access goods and services swiftly and efficiently and public transport will play an increasingly important role in this as non-essential traffic is redirected away from the central area."

The plan envisages bus lanes at Wellington Place, Chichester Street, May Street and Howard Street near the city hall. Northbound through traffic would be re-routed onto Hope Street and Durham Street with southbound cars continuing to use Great Victoria Street.

The area around the Europa bus station is very congested. Translink has to keep extra buses near the city hall because its buses are regularly trapped in busy traffic.

Officials believe measures which include an extra bus lane could leave Great Victoria Street quite busy for cars. Hope Street would become two-way as traffic is encouraged to the west of the city centre.

Durham Street would become one-way northbound and Grosvenor Road one-way westbound. College Square North would become one-way eastbound.

There would be over 40 dedicated disabled parking bays.

There will be priority measures for public transport, taxis and cyclists. A total of 20 new pedestrian crossing points will be created.

Mr Murphy added: "My vision is to achieve a city centre where access by public transport is given a much higher priority and to create a safe street environment tailored to the needs of pedestrians rather than the private car."

Over 40% of householders in Belfast do not have access to a private car and rely on public transport.

The minister wants to limit access for cars to the city centre to certain entry points and stop people from taking short cuts through the area.

The proposed measures include:

:: A city centre ring creating an urban boulevard;

:: An area of the city linking areas of civic importance around the city hall with reduced traffic levels;

:: Greater priority for pedestrians around Royal Avenue and Donegall Place;

:: High accessibility to public transport centres;

:: There would be more than 2.6km (1.6 miles) of new bus lanes and 1.3km (0.8 miles) of dedicated cycle lanes;

:: There would be traffic calming on Barrack Street which is a residential area currently being used as a shortcut by traffic.

Belfast Lord Mayor Pat Convery said: "The key message is to support and promote the development of a modern, safe, accessible and integrated transportation system to enhance the connectivity for Belfast and its wider regions."

Public consultation on the proposals closes on November 30 - to have your say go to NiDirect

Belfast Telegraph