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Five new park-and-rides Northern Ireland

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The Park-and-Ride scheme is being extended in Northern Ireland

The Park-and-Ride scheme is being extended in Northern Ireland

The Park-and-Ride scheme is being extended in Northern Ireland

Reduced traffic as a result of the battle against Covid has put blue skies at the centre of strategic policy at Stormont, MLAs have been told.

And five new park-and-ride schemes should improve air quality as well as reducing peak time congestion, according to Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

They are at Newtownards, Comber, Cairnshill on the outskirts of Belfast, Downpatrick and Trooperslane between Carrickfergus and Greenisland.

And Translink has taken the lead at Trooperslane which could become the first of the schemes to become a reality.

John Irvine, the Department's head of projects, said it was more advanced.

"Translink have the land and, if you will excuse the pun, I think that it will be much further down the track in moving towards construction," he told the Assembly's Infrastructure committee.

SDLP minister Mrs Mallon (above) has said her focus on climate change and air quality will include initiatives encouraging walking and cycling to reduce levels of traffic.

Mr Irvine said: "Taking it in the round, there is a regional strategic network transport plan. Everybody has seen during the lockdown that the sky was bluer, so reduced traffic clearly makes an impact.

"The minister is focused on this, and in our strategic planning, the transport plan will address this as one of its key drivers or indicators."

Questioned by the committee chairperson, DUP MLA Michelle McIlveen, Mr Irvine said the park-and-ride projects are at an early stage despite £4m being allocated last June.

"The funding will enable the department to acquire land for the park-and-ride schemes at Newtownards and probably Comber, Downpatrick and Cairnshill," he added.

"Essentially, the £4 million that was allocated in June kicks the process off. Once you have the land, you move into the development of the scheme, planning permission and, eventually, construction."

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