20/10/2009

Belfast Goes 'Streets Ahead'

The pedestrianisation of Belfast city centre is taking a step forward.

Buses are to be banned from part of Belfast city centre as part of a review of traffic safety, the Department of Regional Development has said.

Ciara Park, 16, died after being hit by a bus at the junction of Donegall Place and Royal Avenue last November.

There had been a number of serious road safety incidents before the death of the Dunmurry teenager.

The DRD said in the "long term", buses and non-essential traffic will be removed from Donegall Place. In the short term, bus movements are to be restricted to those travelling towards the City Hall.

The move comes after the NI Transport Minister Conor Murphy met with his Stormont Executive colleagues, Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie and Environment Minister Edwin Poots.

They discussed the issue of traffic management with a focus on road safety in the main shopping area of Belfast City Centre.

At a previous meeting, the Ministers had agreed to set up a high-level review of the emerging traffic management proposals for the city centre.

The review, which is now complete, looked at the work of departments in developing proposals for Belfast City Centre in line with the draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan.

The proposals include urban regeneration, the creation of a more people-friendly environment and improvements to public transport to encourage less dependency on the private car. The review took account of the differing needs of various groups such as shoppers, visitors, people with disabilities, traders and those who work in the city centre.
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After this week's meeting, Minister Murphy said: "The challenge we faced was to ensure that any proposals will provide a better and safer environment for pedestrians, while still providing effective access and circulation for public transport and essential traffic.

"This is a crucially important issue.

"There is much work still to be done in developing detailed designs but I believe that the current proposals and the design approach will strike the right balance."

Minister Ritchie said: "My department is working with key stakeholders through the 'Belfast: Streets Ahead' programme to create an attractive environment for shoppers, visitors and those who work in the main shopping area which will encourage investment and provide adequate access for public transport.

"The £28million investment in renewing the main shopping streets is the catalyst for implementing the important changes recommended by the review of traffic management proposals. We must not miss out on the opportunity to deliver a real change for the better by maximising the return from this investment."

Also commenting, Minister Poots said: "The proposed changes will enhance road safety, which has been a matter of considerable concern in the area for some time. They will also be good for the environment. If they are implemented as planned, they will deliver a better, cleaner and safer city centre for all of the citizens of Belfast."

The emerging traffic management plans for the core area include in the longer term, the removal of all buses and non-essential traffic from Donegall Place.

In the short term, bus movements in Donegall Place will be reduced and restricted to those travelling in a southerly direction (towards the City Hall). Outside of the main shopping area there will be more priority traffic lanes for buses and for the new rapid transit system.

See: Teen Struck By Bus Dies

(BMcC/KMcA)

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