17/08/2011

Belfast Pedestrian Access To Be Prioritised

Car drivers are to be 'downgraded' as new traffic arrangements in Belfast city centre are set to give higher priority to public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.

The new initiative, that also includes the provision of two new bus services - the 26 and 26b - to Belfast's Titanic Quarter, is also behind the alteration of departure points in the city centre as part of the Department for Regional Development's (DRD) 'Belfast On The Move' scheme.

The NI Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said: "This is the first step in delivering a city centre where access by public transport is given a much higher priority and the street environment is tailored to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists rather than the private car."

The changes to junctions, traffic flows and routes for Translink's buses will affect five streets around the City Hall area and move the city closer to the plans set out in 'Belfast On The Move' the Transport Masterplan for Belfast city centre.

This is the first stage of the Masterplan, which also facilitates the DSD's Streets Ahead Public Realm works.

The work includes the provision of three new sets of traffic signals to facilitate the re-routing of northbound buses from Donegall Place and the introduction of changes to traffic flows in Queen Street, Castle Street and Upper Queen Street to provide more space for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.

However, East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long has expressed frustration that Translink also announced they are going to make reductions to the number 29 bus service which provides a link across a number of areas of Castlereagh. The service is going to be withdrawn at off peak times.

She said: "Alliance has been campaigning hard to try and safeguard the number 29 bus service and other services in the area. The 29 route provides an important link across a number of areas of Castlereagh and I am very disappointed about this news.

"We put our concerns to Translink about the impact on the community that a cut to this service would have, and I am frustrated that it is not being maintained in full. This is a blow to the community in Castlereagh and I would call on Translink to reconsider this move.

"It's vital that we encourage more people to use public transport and this announcement sends out the wrong message," she said,
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The Metro 29 operating in Castlereagh will be withdrawn at off-peak times because of extremely low passengers numbers and Ulsterbus services 214, 235 and 236 from Lagmore, Poleglass and Ladybrook will be combined into one Metro Service, 10X.

Undeterred, the Ulster Unionist Transport Minister Danny Kennedy said: "The next stage is to refine the plans for the Sustainable Transport Enabling Measures following consultation with the public, stakeholders and interested parties.

"These proposals are planned to be taken forward over the next two years, subject to the successful completion of the statutory processes."

Also commenting, the NI Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said: "Belfast city centre is going through a major transformation to make it a more pleasant, accessible and safe place for pedestrians and cyclists.

"My Department has had a key role in completing Phase one of the Belfast; Streets Ahead public realm improvements, which has delivered an improved city centre for all of Belfast's citizens.

"The enhanced environment will also help to make the city centre a destination of choice for shoppers and visitors alike, befitting of a European regional capital," said the DUP politician.

The first junction to be completed will be Howard Street / Upper Queen Street, followed by Wellington Place / Queen Street and finally Castle Street / Queen Street, with completion of all works including new traffic patterns scheduled for 22 August.

New traffic signs and road markings will be in place and Roads Service will also display signs in advance advising the public of the changes.

Notices are being delivered to the buildings and businesses in the streets affected, as well as to all permit holders in the city centre.

In order to facilitate the changes to the traffic flow in the city centre resulting from the works in Donegall Place, a number of bus terminal points will be relocated with some Translink Metro services operating via new routes through the city from 1st September.

Services operating to north Belfast from Donegall Square West will depart Upper Queen Street while a number of services currently operating to west Belfast from Upper Queen Street will now depart from Queen Street.

A number of the existing bus stops directly beside City Hall on Donegall Square West will be relocated to Upper Queen Street.

There will also be adjustments to the locations of bus stops on Chichester Street and Wellington Place for some services operating to the east and south of the city.

(BMcC/GK)

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