Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland road network simply not fit for purpose

Traffic at a standstill in Belfast
Traffic at a standstill in Belfast
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

First things first. I don't mind driving. Indeed, I quite like driving, cocooned away from the world in a place of your own. It's thinking time, maybe a chance to listen to music or catch up with the latest Stephen Nolan crusade during the morning commute.

Driving is one thing, but sitting staring at the back of a lorry as a Tuesday morning grinds to a halt before it has even got started is another.

It comes as no surprise that, after London, motorists spend more time in their cars trying to get into or through Belfast than any other UK city, and that's before a rush hour accident or even a simple breakdown leaves thousands stranded, late for work, late for appointments, unable to get to where they needed to be an hour before.

I live in Magherafelt - the other end of the Earth as far as some people in Belfast think - but in reality it's 40 minutes coasting up the motorway. Drop the kids at school, negotiate the roadworks as the A6 upgrade continues to take shape between Castledawson and Randalstown, pull into the car park and walk through the office doors before the normal 10am start.

That's what life should be like.

I pay taxes like everyone else. I don't expect to be embarrassed walking in over half an hour late. Nor does anyone else. I apologise. No one apologises to me.

There is no doubt Belfast has a major problem. Breakdowns happen. Vehicles occasionally collide. Why does something so simple leave Belfast in such a sorry state? Imagine the difference a little forward-planning could make to everyday lives.

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So, I found myself joining the queue of traffic around Templepatrick around 9.20am thanks to a crash on the Sydenham bypass some 12 miles away - 12 miles!

Use the bus, someone might say. Ever tried getting a bus from Magherafelt to Belfast? You still hit all the traffic. Train? The nearest station is in Antrim.

Many people have no choice other than to use the car. But that's why they pay road tax, so why shouldn't they? And why shouldn't they expect the road network to be able to cope?

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