16/01/2007

Rapid transit system considered for Belfast

The feasibility of a light rail type rapid transit system is to be considered for Belfast.

Regional Development Minister, David Cairns, announced that WS Atkins will undertake economic feasibility studies on proposals for Belfast.

The studies will appraise public transport provision under the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan (BMTP) proposals for the EWAY rapid transit scheme which would run between Dundonald and Belfast city centre and a CITI (City Airport Titanic Quarter Route) rapid transit service.

The system would link the city centre with the Titanic Quarter development, George Best Belfast City Airport and new retail development in the Belfast Harbour Estate.

David Cairns said: "Rapid transit was identified in the department’s strategic thinking as a major element of the delivery of a step change in the quality of public transport within the Belfast Metropolitan area.

"While bus based rapid transit was previously assessed at the time of the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan in 2004 as the most cost effective and operationally flexible, I am conscious that the situation has not remained static and that it is prudent that the studies examine other rapid transit options including light rail.

"These studies will result in a business case that will identify the optimal routes and technology. They will cost the proposals, identify their benefits, and indicate likely sources of funding. If the outcome is positive it will provide a sound basis to take forward these schemes. Any public sector funding requirements will be assessed in the normal budgetary processes.

"Such schemes are expensive and it is important that they are fully and properly studied before decisions are taken."

It is envisaged that WS Atkins will present a report of its findings to the department around mid 2007.

(SP)

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