28/11/2008

Stormont Ministers Announce £250m 'Titanic' Building Projects

After several months of bleak prospects for the Northern Ireland construction sector, the Stormont Executive has stepped in to bolster further development in Belfast's Titanic Quarter.

Plans for a £97m 'landmark' building were brought forward by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, who said 600 building jobs would be created at the peak of the project. Work on the 'Titanic signature project' (pictured) is to start in January, with the Executive pledging £43m towards the cost.

In additional to the Titanic scheme, Transport Minister Conor Murphy has further advanced his proposals for a rapid transit system in the city.

Ministers have supported plans that will see tram lines connecting east and west Belfast, through the city centre and Titanic Quarter, in a massive project estimated to cost £120m.

Work is already underway on designing the scheme. Building work could commence as soon as 2011.

Minister Murphy suggested up to five and a half million commuters could be carried on the rapid transport system every year.

He said: "The pilot system will have three routes.

"One running from Dundonald in the east to the city centre; one serving the development in Titanic Quarter and one from the city centre to the Royal Victoria Hospital and beyond into west Belfast.

"The exact alignments of these routes will be established through the detailed design stage."

The network aims to cut the number of motorists on the road during rush hour.

West Belfast MP Gerry Adams welcomed the announcement.
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He said: "This major transportation project will not only deliver a new modern service, but will provide opportunities over the coming years to our local economy through employment opportunities in engineering, construction and the operation of the new system."

Earlier this year, Metro bus drivers held a ballot on possible strike action in protest at Mr Murphy's proposals for a light railway system.

Unite, the union who represents bus drivers, described the Minister's plans as "ludicrous" and a "pipe dream".

However, Minister Arlene Foster described yesterday’s Executive investment package as "fabulous" news for Northern Ireland.

It is hoped the projects will boost the ailing construction sector, which has faced a severe downturn in the last 12 months.

Ms Foster said: "At a time when the Northern Ireland construction industry is under significant pressure this project will deliver a much needed boost to the sector.

"At the project’s peak there will be some 600 workers on site. And that is without counting the additional benefits created through indirect and induced employment, which the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors estimate at two additional jobs for every construction job created.”"

The Minister insisted it was "vital" the building was complete to mark the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, in April 2012.

The rest of the £53m funding will come from the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Belfast City Council and private developers.

Movement on the project follows a major setback last year, when the development failed to gain lottery funding.

See: Siegenia-Aubi Helps Launch Titanic

(PR/KMcA)

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