Belfast Telegraph

Maligned park and ride has noble aim

A park and share facility aimed at easing the rush hour traffic flow on one of Belfast's most congested arterial routes has got off to a very uncertain start, attracting only a handful of motorists in its first week of operation.

The 700-space car park was designed to allow motorists to park there and then either share vehicles on the onward journey into the city or to use public transport, but it has had teething problems.

It seems that the marketing drive required to get drivers to change the habit of a lifetime is not up to scratch and - a bigger problem - a bus operator to make it a fully-fledged park-and-ride scheme, has not yet been appointed. On both counts the Department for Regional Development deserves the brick-bats thrown at it. There is very little return so far for the £8m spent on developing the facility and the Department needs to get its act together if it is not to be the subject of further ridicule.

However, we should not lose sight of the reason for the development and the sound environmental foundations on which it was built. Like all major urban areas, Belfast, even in these straitened economic times, suffers from a surfeit of motor cars making their way into and out of the city at peak periods. It makes sense to attempt to get drivers to act more responsibly by either sharing their vehicles with other commuters or making greater use of public transport.

The south of the city, with its rash of new housing developments in recent decades, is one of the most congested routes and the Department's idea of a large park and share or, preferably, park and ride facility follows the example of other cities. It is an idea whose time is now, but whose implementation, sadly, leaves something to be desired. More thought needs to be given on how to make it more attractive to a generation of commuters who still love their cars.

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