Irvine Lavery is Development Manager of Translink, which operates
trains and buses in Northern Ireland.
What impact do you think the super-route would have on Belvoir Forest?
I think, in my opinion that the impact would be quite minimal. You
may have a few trees chopped down. But it is designed to run though
scrub land which we have looked at very carefully, it was between
the golf course and the forest proper. The super-route itself would
be sunken down. There would be trees put back where necessary to
give it a tree shield and I really believe that people walking close
by won't even realise there is a super-route down there. I mean
we're not talking about motorways or massive flows of traffic, we're
talking about one bus every few minutes and these modern buses are
very quiet and low pollution. So the impact I feel will be minimal.
What will happen if we do nothing?
I think the effect of doing nothing would be at peak hours the whole
southern approaches reaching a standstill. The Forestside traffic
junction is already above capacity. Over the next few years the
traffic will become slower and slower, it will be pushing out more
and more pollution. The health aspect of this whole proposal is
most important. There are accepted figures of 24,000 people dying
prematurely in the UK from exhaust gas emissions. We're trying to
balance the environmental needs for the forest with the health needs
of thousands of people living down the Ormeau and Saintfield roads.
We're causing health problems for many young children, many older
people. We have to balance that against the removal of perhaps a
couple of trees.
What is your preference for the future?
Well, I think the main thing in the southern approaches is we must
cause a modal shift from cars into public transport. We've looked
at different options. People are very keen on super trams or LRT
(Light Rail Transport). But the area is so widespread. Belfast has
spread so widely now that we don't have the concentration of people
living down traffic corridors that we need for a super tram. The
best approach if you like is the super bus, where the southern approaches
will be like the trunk of a tree. That'll be the main route for
the buses, and then the buses will spread out like the branches
of a tree, all over North Down and then come into an area such as
Carryduff and have fast transit into the City Centre. What we do
need is good efficient park and ride sites around the Carryduff
area to encourage people to end to the motor cars. The advantage
of getting people into buses instead of private cars is it frees
up the road for essential users. Pedestrians walking along the pavements,
cyclists, freight lorries to give them fast access into the city
centre. Moving people onto public transport is a win win, and I
don't see there is any other option at all.