08/04/2008

Belfast Buses Beats Light Rail

A light rail system - comparable to the Luas in Dublin - is not believed to be a viable transport option for Belfast, according to a study published today.

The report by Atkins & KPMG, commissioned by the NI Department of Regional Development has said that while a rapid transit network is viable for Belfast, it should be in the form of a modern and high-class bus-based system, rather than a light rail-based system.

Transportation experts concluded that the most appropriate system for the city is a modern and high-class bus-based system but recommended there should be the option of migrating to light rail in the future, should the demand increase.



Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy said: "Rapid transit is an exciting prospect for Belfast and I have recently visited the Netherlands and have seen examples of what could be possible here."


He said he envisaged a rapid transit network as a service offering improved speed, reliability, comfort and access features over conventional public transport.

"It is a service that should be segregated from other traffic as much as possible with new vehicle designs that enhance the journey and reflect Belfast as a 21st century city," Mr Murphy said.



“This is our opportunity to create a new dynamic transportation system for the city, one that helps link people to jobs, hospitals, schools and colleges and one that links communities to the city centre and the emerging opportunities in Titanic Quarter.

"A system that can be expanded to other parts of the city in due course, a system that attracts drivers out of their cars as they see the advantages of rapid transit," he added.



The NI Executive Programme for Government highlights rapid transit as a key priority with a commitment to start work on the first scheme by 2011.

The Minister has already secured £111million for rapid transit and continues to explore "opportunities to draw in additional private sector finance".



Three pilot routes have been considered in the studies: one running from Dundonald in the East to the city centre; one serving the development in Titanic Quarter and onwards to Queen’s University and the City Hospital; and one into the West from the city centre to the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) and beyond into West Belfast.

The Minister has stressed that no decision has yet been made but it is expected that the Executive is likely to favour the report recommended bus-based network.

Stakeholders such as Translink, now have six weeks to comment on the report.

Translink's Metro driver’s union, Unite, has previously called on the Transport Minister to meet promises he made to introduce dedicated bus lanes into the city centre to tackle Belfast’s morning traffic jams.

See: Bus Drivers Threaten to Strike

(VB)(BMcC)

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