Translink apologises after Belfast bus services affected by lane chaos
Action has been taken in an attempt to ease horrendous tailbacks in Belfast's Titanic Quarter following the introduction of new bus lanes earlier this week.
Even bus services that were supposed to benefit from the new system were badly affected.
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Queen's Road and Sydenham Road - which service the Science Park and Titanic Exhibition Centre as well as several hotels and major businesses - have been at a standstill during rush hour this week.
Commuters have been complaining that 10-minute journeys are now taking almost an hour.
Translink apologised last night after a number of No 26 services operated a shortened route.
"This was to allow services to get back on schedule for subsequent departures," a spokesperson said. "We would like to apologise to our customers for any inconvenience."
Earlier, the Department for Infrastructure also issued an apology, and introduced new traffic light timings at the end of Queen's Road yesterday to try to alleviate the congestion.
A spokesperson said: "The Department recognises there is a problem with traffic flow on the Queen's Road/Sydenham Road during the peak evening period and apologises for any disruption caused.
"While some disruption is to be expected when any new road layout is introduced, the delays have been greater than anticipated. We are currently working on measures to address this. Revised traffic light timings will be in place. The Department will continue to closely monitor this situation."
Hotel worker Mervyn Pritchard said the introduction of the new bus lanes has made his travel to work a nightmare: "It's never been like this before.
"The traffic is solid. It's basically the same number of cars packed into a single lane when there used to be two.
"Maybe there could be bus lanes at certain times of the day to give people who work here a chance to get in and out.
"There's only one road through here and everyone's trying to use it."
There were also a string of complaints on social media with many motorists angry that an extra hour had been added to their journey home.
Harbour police were posted at traffic lights along Queen's Road yesterday to assist motorists with the new system.
Alliance leader and East Belfast MLA Naomi Long said the issue was something she had raised more than three weeks before the lanes came into operation.
"This is an area which sees congestion when an event at the SSE Arena clashes with rush hour traffic," she said.
"However, specific concerns were raised when the bus lanes were marked out that it would lead to a significant increase in congestion at peak times.
"I suggested potential lane adjustments at junctions. Initially the Department replied to say they did not believe such changes were necessary and would review the situation in a year.
"As predicted, it led to complete gridlock.
"Perversely, buses servicing Queen's Road are also stuck in these tailbacks.
"Adjusting the timings of traffic signals is welcome short-term but it is unlikely to provide a permanent fix.
"We had the bizarre situation that people on buses were caught in traffic created by the bus lanes.
"I want Road Services and Translink to talk to businesses. Already people are saying businesses would look at relocating."
Mrs Long also raised concerns about what the traffic situation would be like once Belfast Met starts again later this month, as well as during big events at the SSE Arena. She said she has sought an urgent meeting with the Department and Translink "to seek a permanent solution to a situation of their making".