Northern Ireland

Belfast: Three 24-hour bus lanes to operate 12 hours

The 24-hour bus lane on East Bridge Street Image copyright Google
Image caption The 24-hour bus lane on East Bridge Street which will change to a 12-hour bus lane on Monday 23 January

The infrastructure Minister has announced that three 24-hour-bus lanes in Belfast will now operate over 12 hours only.

The lanes are in East Bridge Street, on the Saintfield Road and the Upper Newtownards Road.

The new operational times will begin on Monday 23 January.

There were complaints about the camera operating 24 hours a day - even when buses are not running.

In March, Chris Hazzard had asked for the matter to be reviewed.

In November, figures revealed more than 2,000 people have been fined for driving in Belfast's city centre bus lanes between the hours of 00:00 and 06:00.

City centre buses do not run at night, with the latest one ending before midnight.

Mr Hazzard said: "The changes I am announcing today are consistent with existing city centre bus lanes and the proposed operational hours of the Belfast Rapid Transit scheme and will help ensure the free flow of traffic in and around Belfast city.

"I know they will be welcomed by many who use these busy routes through the city."

Image caption Cllr Jim Rogers says he believes 24-hour bus lanes will be done away with

It was also announced that there are plans to introduce vehicle clamping on cars that park in bus lanes while they are operating.

"All it takes is one inconsiderate driver to leave their vehicle parked illegally in a bus lane or on a clearway for a short period of time causing inconvenience to countless others," said Mr Hazzard.

"These illegally parked vehicles can cause delays and congestion for several hours not only in the immediate location but also in the surrounding areas."

In November, Councillor Jim Rogers told BBC News NI he had been keen to see an end to 24-hour bus lanes.

"When they were first introduced I couldn't believe it. Our buses and trains don't run 24 hours," he said.

"I remember saying to the department 'What's the reason for this?' They could give me no answer.

Since June 2015, motorists who drive in the lanes have faced a £90 fine, which is reduced to £45 if paid within two weeks.

There are more than 60 bus lanes across the city.

Bus lanes were introduced as part of the On the Move traffic plan.

Last year, Ciaran de Burca from the Department for Regional Develoment's transport projects division told Stormont MLAs that the scheme was not about making revenue.

More than £500,000 was raised from fines between 22 June and 16 September 2015.

He said he and his staff did not believe that they would raise this level of fines.

Extra signs had been put up in efforts to reduce the number of drivers being caught out, he added.

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