Belfast Telegraph

Traffic plan to get us moving is just driving everyone mad

By Lindy McDowell

Progress Belfast-style? The bus lanes have replaced the bombers in effectively bringing the city to a standstill. So what can we expect as a next move from the farcically-entitled Belfast On The Move?

A city centre congestion charge?

Don't be surprised. Don't expect common sense or at least an understanding of the pressures facing the ordinary punter to come into any of this.

Last Thursday morning's spectacular gridlock was exacerbated by a fault in the traffic light system. But it was also an example of something we do so very, very well in this city.

Take a system which requires some improvement - and screw it up entirely. Hence my concern that they haven't finished yet ... .

According to Joe Jordan from Belfast Chamber of Trade the bus lane fiasco has been "the most ill-thought-out, complicated, convoluted scheme that Belfast has ever come up with."

And bearing in mind Belfast's history of the ill-thought-out, complicated, convoluted schemes, that's saying something.

Mr Jordan is not some nutty hysteric. He speaks on behalf of shopkeepers and businesses - not all big chains - many of whom are small local concerns hanging on by their fingernails in the face of dire recession and desperately hoping pre-Christmas trade will see them (and their employees) through the next few months.

Then there are the workers. The punters who travel into the city centre for the 9-5 daily grind. The commuters epitomised by the photographs you've seen in these pages in recent days. Angry, fatigued faces of hard-working people who have had a couple of hours of sheer misery locked on to their journey.

And, no, it's not as easy as some might suggest for all these people to just jump on a bus.

I love buses. I travel on them regularly. When I have time. But, unlike some commentators, I am well aware of the limitations of public transport. It is not always convenient.

Even where buses come regularly they also regularly include that one that does the circuit of Ireland before it gets to the city centre.

Simple equation - if public transport in Belfast was up to the job it would be more popular. People aren't stupid.

They aren't all lazy either. Or too nice to get out of their Lexus and join the hoi polloi on Translink.

Most of those caught up in the morning rush hour are ordinary working people who find, for different reasons, that they have no alternative but to tackle what is now a nightmare daily commute.

There may not be a bus route near where they live. They may have to drop children off at school or partners or friends off at other workplaces. There are a myriad reasons.

Car travel may just be more economical. There's a recession on. In the real world, it's biting.

Slicing off lanes for buses which don't adequately cater for the commuting workforce, creating traffic chaos and lengthy hold-ups is too much stick, too little carrot.

It is treating working people with disdain and contempt.

The money splashed out on this should have been used to properly enhance public transportation.

Why can't we have a good tram system in Belfast? A northern Luas? We all know the answer to that. No funding available.

Yet there was adequate money to devise a system that has brought chaos to the streets and struck a sizeable blow to Belfast's commercial heart.

Progress Belfast-style? Extra bus lanes on the road to nowhere.


From Belfast Telegraph