13/10/2011

Belfast's Future Transport 'On The Buses'

Belfast is set to build a new, faster way of getting its inhabitants around the city.

While the NI capital isn't San Francisco and won't be getting a similar transport system to the iconic Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, the city's transport may soon take on a distinctly European character instead.

The NI Transport Minister Danny Kennedy this week launched his public consultation on the route options for the new Belfast Rapid Transit pilot network. However, rather than underground trains, trams and more traditional buses linking-up in San Francisco's BART, Belfast's proposed transportation development will remain wedded to buses - although on a pre-selected network of roadways.

Modelled in part on a successful French transport system, this bus-based rapid transit network proposal aims to significantly enhance accessibility by public transport to the preferred routes and Belfast city centre.

Launching the consultation in Belfast City Hall on Wednesday, the Ulster Unionist Minister said: "Belfast, like all strong, vibrant cities, needs a modern and efficient transport system.

"Belfast Rapid Transit will help to transform that transport system, providing quick and efficient access into and across the city and helping to regenerate and open up new development opportunities along its routes.

"It will play a key role in supporting local economies, linking businesses with markets and linking communities and people with jobs," he added.

Minister Kennedy continued: "We all depend on Belfast's transport network to get to work, access healthcare and education, to go shopping, and for visiting the city generally.

"How we develop that transport network is a critical part of the city's future."

Reflecting on his recent visit to see the benefits of the bus-based rapid operating in Nantes, France, the Minister added: "The Nantes rapid transit system is widely regarded as the best in Europe and I saw for myself how a city of comparable size to Belfast can significantly increase the use of public transport and reduce the reliance on the private car."

Commenting on his commitment to reducing dependence on the private car, the Minister added: "We need a transportation system that can accommodate the future demands of Belfast, both its people and businesses.

"We need to reprioritise how we travel and change our travel behaviour to encourage a shift away from the private car and towards public transport.

"By working together we can make public transport, into, within and across Belfast, safer, cleaner and more attractive for everyone," he added.

Inviting comment on the proposals Danny Kennedy concluded: "I encourage everyone who has an interest in the city of Belfast, to examine the proposals and have their say on how they can be developed."

The consultation document sets out several emerging preferred route options for the pilot Belfast Rapid Transit network.

These include the CITI Route - From the River Lagan, Belfast Rapid Transit will run on Queen Elizabeth Bridge, Queen's Quay and Queen's Road into Titanic Quarter; returning via Station Street, Bridge End and Queen's Bridge to join the one-way city centre loop.
News Image
The EWAY Route is proposed to be from a new park and ride site near Quarry Corner, to run 'on street' along Upper Newtownards Road, through Dundonald Village to Holywood Arches and via Albertbridge Road and East Bridge Street through to join the one-way city centre loop.

The WWAY Route will be from a new park and ride site at McKinstry Road roundabout and/or Dairy Farm, to run on-street along Stewartstown Road, Andersonstown Road, Falls Road and via the Grosvenor Road to join the one-way city centre loop.

In the city Centre a one-way, on-street loop from Queen's Bridge, along Oxford Street, May Street, Howard Street, Fisherwick Place, College Square East, Wellington Place, Chichester Street, Victoria Street, Custom House Square and Oxford Street to the Queen Elizabeth Bridge is proposed. This route is facilitated by the Department's Belfast on the Move Transport Masterplan.

As part of the options assessment process the Department will also consider other options such as the EWAY, from Holywood Arches, via the Newtownards Road (lower section) and Bridge End to join the one-way city centre loop and the WWAY, from the Royal Victoria Hospital, via Falls Road and Divis Street to join the one-way city centre loop.

Emphasising the importance of developing sustainable transport systems for Belfast, Lord Mayor of Belfast Niall O Donnghaile said: "I welcome the launch of the public consultation on the route options for the Belfast Rapid Transit project. This represents a significant step toward the development of a modern, safe, accessible and integrated transportation system to enhance the connectivity for Belfast."

The public consultation on the proposals will close on 6 January with further details available by phoning 028 9054 0273 or clicking onto www.drdni.gov.uk/index/rapid-transit.htm

Following the exhibition in Belfast City Hall, the proposals will be available to view in Clarence Court, Adelaide Street until the end of the consultation period on 6 January.

The proposals will also be on display in the Offices of the East Belfast and West Belfast Partnership Boards from Monday 24 October to Friday 6 January 2012.

Welcome

The sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, has welcomed proposals for a new rapid transit network for Belfast, announced today.

Steven Patterson, Sustrans Director in Northern Ireland, said: "We warmly welcome the Minister’s bold plans to help Belfast into the 21st century with a rapid transit system which should entice many people out of their cars.

"This will help Belfast develop into a modern European city and transform communities along the routes.

"We welcome especially the fact that these proposals recognise the need to reallocate existing road space if the proposed rapid transit system is to realise its full potential.

"It's important these proposals for pubic transport integrate with walking and cycling routes to maximise travel choices," he added.

"We hope the plans will be prioritised by the Department for Regional Development so that work can begin on the new network as soon as possible."

(BMcC)

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