BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

20 February 2015
Primary Focus

BBC Homepage
BBC NI Schools

Primary Focus
Ordering Page
Schools Help

Contact Us

The programmes all feature specific locations in Northern Ireland and they also provide scope for work on a variety of themes e.g. the environment, where people live, what people do. The aim is to provide material which is relevant to pupils' experiences and which is illustrative of life in Northern Ireland.
About the Programme
Programme 5 - Traffic Survey
Monday, 9 November 1999

ARCHIVE - SELB programme code :TH 0592

This episode is now part of our archive. This programme is still available to schools to borrow or purchase from the Audio Visual Recording service at the SELB. Please quote the SELB programme code in your correspondence. See our ordering page for more information.

The programme explores the role of traffic surveys in helping road planners manage traffic problems. It examines surveys carried out by the Department of the Environment and looks in detail at two areas of traffic congestion, one in Newry town centre, the other on the approaches to Belfast city centre. It explores the solutions found for these, namely the Newry Bypass and the M3 cross-harbour road bridge. The success of the road schemes in taking traffic away from the affected areas is investigated along with alternatives to ever-increasing car use.

The programme is presented by Donna Traynor. Donna is joined by pupils from a school close to the Newry Bypass in the first part and by two pupils from schools in East Belfast for the second. The Primary 7 pupils have been studying traffic issues close to their schools and have carried out their own mini-surveys. With their help Donna explores how traffic surveys are vital in giving information about traffic flows and looks at the solutions found for two areas with major traffic congestion. They also examine the continuing rise in traffic on our roads and the problems this is causing.
Newry is the main town in the South Down/South Armagh area. It straddles the main A1 Belfast to Dublin route, providing the main link between the two capitals and carrying a large proportion of cross-border traffic. A considerable volume of traffic from the surrounding areas of South Down, South Armagh and North Louth in the Republic also flows into the town. Until the late 1980s all traffic travelling north-south had to pass through the centre of Newry. This caused major delays, especially for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). These also had to have their documentation checked in both jurisdictions at Newry and Dundalk before new EU laws came into force allowing the free movement of goods across frontiers. Newry itself is a town with a long trading history stretching back to the 12th century. In the 18th century ships were able to come right into the town centre along the Newry Canal to load and unload. But modern trade is carried predominantly by road which means thousands of lorries and other vehicles trying to get through streets which were not designed to take them. This creates traffic jams, clogs up the town and slows down travelling times for all drivers.
Image of Newry Bypass
Newry Bypass
The need for a bypass to take traffic around the town rather than through it was recognised in the Department of Environment's Newry Area Plan of 1986 and the first stage was constructed in 1988 at a cost of around £2 million. A local public inquiry was held in August 1990 and the detailed design began in early 1991. The £6.5 million Stage 2 section was opened in April 1995 and a £1.4 million railway bridge was also built. The third and final stage was completed in late 1996. The road has reduced the volume of traffic within Newry and improved driving conditions particularly for long-distance drivers. The bypass is a single carriageway with a climbing lane on the steeper gradient. There is no footpath but a footbridge spans the road at Carnagat.

The bypass has an average daily vehicle count of more than 13,000 which rises at times to almost 17,000. If it were not for the bypass the bulk of this traffic would otherwise have to go through the town. But it has not cured all of the town's problems. Several large stores have opened along the Canal Quays in recent years. These bring thousands of cars into the town every day. Heavy goods vehicles travelling to and from the port at Warrenpoint must pass through Newry to reach the main A1 Belfast-Dublin road. The town has several large schools and a major hospital which also increase traffic flows particularly at rush-hour. Parking problems have increased because many car owners want to get as close as possible to the shopping areas in the town centre. The DoE has plans for urban traffic control measures which would at least alleviate some of these problems.
Responses to the Bypass
Drivers, particularly lorry drivers, are greatly in favour of the bypass. It has cut down journey times, cut out the stress of travelling through a heavily built up area and reduced the risk of road accidents in the busy Newry streets. There is no footpath, so cyclists, joggers and pedestrians use the hard shoulder. (The DoE did not want pedestrians using the bypass so no footpath was built). People living in the area used to cross the narrow roadway to a local beauty spot at Bernish Rock but they no longer do so. People in Newry feel the need for additional measures to tackle the town's continuing traffic problems.
Traffic Counts
The Department of the Environment Roads Service continually monitors traffic on all major roads in Northern Ireland. In Belfast alone it has 200 sites which it regularly uses for temporary counts. These sites allow the Roads Service to keep a complete picture of traffic movements across Northern Ireland and they provide vital data for both short- and long-term road planning measures. Monitoring devices are left at these sites to record data on every vehicle that passes. The data is downloaded into a computer which then builds up a graphic and numerical picture of the volume and kind of traffic. This means that road planning and traffic control decisions are scientifically based and not dependent on short sample human counts.

In addition new developments such as the Hilton Hotel in Belfast carry out counts which the DoE check. These counts affect the size of access roads to the new developments.
Belfast's Traffic Problems
Belfast is a major industrial, commercial and shopping centre with a population of 350,000 people. Traffic flows into it from across Northern Ireland via the M1 and the M2 and also enters by way of the Port of Belfast. Until the early 1990s anyone who wanted to use the main routes had to go through the city centre whether they wanted to go there or not. This produced heavy traffic throughout the day and gridlock at rush hour. People needed to be able to get across the river Lagan quickly by road avoiding the city centre. There was a need for a road which would link up the M2, the Westlink and the Sydenham Bypass and also for a rail link joining up Belfast's two main stations.
The M3 road and Rail Bridge
Clearance work began in 1991 on what was one of the largest construction projects ever carried out in Northern Ireland. At its height 400 people were employed and it took three years to build the bridges which finally opened in 1995. 105 foundation piers were built in a special factory on nearby Queen's Island which helped reduce traffic delays during the building work. Special technology was used to make sure the pieces fitted together exactly. Overall the scheme cost £87 million.
Image of Belfast's M3
Traffic Flows
The scheme has had a marked effect in taking traffic out of the city centre. In 1994 before the M3 bridge was built 37,000 vehicles a day used the Queen Elizabeth Bridge which carried traffic from the city centre into East Belfast. That volume has been cut by almost two-thirds with the daily figure now only 13,000. The old Queen's Bridge used to carry 37,000 vehicles a day into the city centre and that has dropped to 16,000 a day. The M3 road bridge carries almost 60,000 vehicles a day, taking a huge volume of traffic away from the city centre. Conversely building a new road or bridge can draw traffic to it. The Ravenhill Road is now the main access route to the M3 bridge from South Belfast and traffic has grown significantly on it.
Commercial Developments
As happened in Newry, a large number of shopping developments have opened in South Belfast in recent years and that has greatly increased traffic flow to and from the commercial site at Forestside. Planners are continually faced with the problem of traffic growth and the demands of businesses which want shoppers to drive to their premises.
Increase in Traffic
The number of vehicles on our roads is increasing daily. There are now more than 600,000 vehicles licensed for use on Northern Ireland's roads. The number of cars alone jumped by 35,000 in the last year for which there are figures, 1996-7. Traffic is increasing by about 3% a year in Northern Ireland.

Every day around 60,000 vehicles use the Westlink to get to and from the M1 Motorway in West Belfast. Traffic build-up is now a regular feature because of the number of single occupant journeys. The DoE Roads Service is planning to build either fly-overs or tunnels at the worst affected junctions at Broadway and Grosvenor Road. There will also be a modest road-widening scheme, a bus priority lane and improvements to help pedestrians and cyclists. These are expected to be finished by 2002 at a total cost of £37 million.
A major effort is needed to increase awareness of the present serious traffic congestion. More and more cars are flooding onto our roads and a number of key routes into the city such as the M1 from Sprucefield and the Saintfield Road experience frequent gridlock in the peak morning rush hour. This story is repeated in a number of other cities and towns.

Alternatives that will have to be considered are park and ride schemes, car sharing, reduced car park charges for shared cars and increased charges for single occupant cars. City centre car parking charges may be increased. This may encourage employers who pay parking fees to persuade employees to share vehicles and so reduce parking costs. Drivers must also realise that many of our actions affect the environment and non-essential car journeys contribute significantly to traffic problems. The school run too creates a huge traffic surge in the mornings and late afternoons because in many areas the vast majority of children travel to school by car. But home working, taking journeys at off-peak times and sharing with others will all have a beneficial affect.
Before the Programme

  • Discuss the meaning of the following keywords:
After the Programme
Group Work:
  • Find Newry, Belfast, Dublin and the main A1 route between Belfast and Dublin. On a map of Newry find the bypass and on a map of Belfast find the M3 bridge area.
  • What causes traffic jams?
  • Why was the Newry Bypass built?
  • Why were the M3 road and rail bridges built?
  • Is there any disadvantage to a new road such as the M3 bridge or the Newry Bypass?
  • What traffic problems can the building of stores within towns or on the outskirts create?
  • What can be done to reduce the traffic on our roads?
  • Different groups from within the class could carry out their own traffic count, under supervision, at different points in the day to ascertain what the busiest times for traffic are near the school. This could be done for a short period e.g. 1 week. Histograms or picture graphs could be made of the information gathered and traffic flows around the school could be compared across time.
  • From the information given in the programme complete the following table:
What do people who use the bypass think of it?

Why are there still traffic problems in Newry?

What could be done to help deal with them?

What could people do to help cut down the traffic on our roads?

Which measures do you think would be best in helping reduce traffic on our roads?

What one idea, apart from those mentioned in the programme, do you think would encourage people to leave their cars at home?


Further Resources
Department of the Environment, Roads Service:
Geography Programmes
Programme 1:
Programme 2:
Programme 3:
Strangford Lough
Programme 4:
Textile Industry
Programme 5:
Traffic Survey
Can't find your subject? Visit our archive section where you can find programmes supporting other curricular subjects, including: Geography, History, Citizenship and English.

Visit the archive.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy