Northern Ireland

Trade body in 'scrap bus lanes' call

BUSLANE
Image caption The plans would see some bus lanes scrapped as an 'experiment'

Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce has called for bus lanes to be scrapped in certain areas of the city.

They proposed to remove the "non-Belfast Rapid Transit system (BRT) related bus lanes as an experiment."

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said: "I will happily meet anybody who can evidentially show bus lanes are "bad for business".

But the proposals have been criticised by cycling charity Sustrans, which called them "retrogressive".

BRT is the system which will link the city centre to west and east Belfast and the Titanic Quarter.

It is due to be operational by 2018.

'Be more radical'

The concerns arose at a briefing at the Committee for Infrastructure on Wednesday 7 December.

President of the Chamber of Commerce, Gordon McIroy told the committee: "Our members and the people who deal with them are most concerned about the amount of confusion that is being created by the bus lanes in Belfast.

"They are concerned that the bus lanes are operating at different times.

"It does not mean that there should not be bus lanes or lanes set aside for specific types of traffic to improve transport flow.

"We really support the introduction of Belfast rapid transit, and the bus lanes that serve it should be there.

Image copyright Courtesy of the Department for Infrastructure
Image caption Belfast Rapid Transit system route progress

"We propose to the department that it be more radical and remove the non-BRT-related bus lanes as an experiment, as was done in Liverpool, where it was found that traffic was freed up and moved much more easily through the city."

'Retrogressive step'

The move has however, been criticised by Gordon Clarke, Northern Ireland Director for the charity Sustrans, who expressed concern at the proposal.

"Removing bus lanes is a retrogressive step especially when many of these bus lanes will be required for the future proposed expansion of the Belfast Rapid Transit network," he said.

"Bus lanes are also protected routes for cyclists and are therefore vitally important for bike commuters until such times as there is better infrastructure.

"Removing bus lanes and encouraging more cars in the city centre will cause air quality to deteriorate further and is off-putting for people living and working in the city."

The concerns were first published in an article written by nigreenways.

Minister Chris Hazzard said: "In modern cities with efficient public transport systems bus lanes are the norm.

"Bus lanes are an important element in keeping city traffic flowing well and a vital benefit for the many thousands of users who opt to travel by bus to school, work or for pleasure. Filling one bus with passengers equates to the removal of around 50 cars from our roads, that is a queue of cars about 1/3 km long.

"Increasing the use of public transport and active travel is a fundamental element of the Programme for Government. Belfast Rapid Transit, an Executive flagship project is a multi million pound investment in sustainable transport and will deliver high quality public transport services.

"In developing the detailed designs for the BRT system, the Department has sought to balance the needs of all those using the route and we will continue to work with the many stakeholders to the BRT project to ensure that we deliver the best possible outcome for the people of Belfast."

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