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Belfast News: East Belfast Bus Lanes

The public's anger surrounding the introduction of city centre bus lane and bus lane cameras has now spread to East Belfast following the introduction of bus lanes at Ballyhackamore.

The new bus lanes which form part of the Department for Regional Development's Belfast Rapid Transit project have now left East Belfast bus lanes looking as if they were designed by someone using substances. The bus lanes on the Upper Newtownards Road between the Beersbridge Road and the North Road junctions are only operational after 4.30pm, the bus lanes on the Upper Newtownards Road between the Sandown Road and the Knock Road are operational morning and afternoon but with an earlier starting time of 3:30om in the afternoon, whilst no bus lanes exist in many places the bus lanes at Stormont at the moment are only operational in the afternoon.

However, what many people do not know is that upon the full implementation of the Rapid Transit Project in 2017 is that the bus lanes will operate from 7am in the morning to 7pm in the evening in both directions.

If East Belfast thinks it has it bad now trying to adjust to the new bus lanes, with businesses trying to keep their business profitable, footfall high and residents trying to find a parking space at their own door - then you aint seen nothing yet!

The DRD were asked how many parking spaces are to be lost along the East Belfast route and advised that as the detailed designs have not yet been finalised for the entire Belfast Rapid Transit route in East Belfast it is not possible to fully answer this question. The DRD stated 'However, the detailed designs have been finalised for the section of the route on the Upper Newtownards Road between Sandown Road and Knock Road and, on this section, no car parking spaces will be removed.' However, it is clear from the DRD response and the fact that you cannot park along the route that the DRD has not included the loss of any on-road parking. The DRD did point out that there are plans to provide an additional short stay parking lay-by opposite Eastleigh Drive, which has not yet be implemented.

The chaos facing parents during the school run at schools such as Greenwood is unthinkable. The effect on shops who open during the new bus lanes operational times of 7 am to 7pm will depend on the loyalty of patrons but other businesses such as the evening restaurant trade will be largely unaffected.

The NI Executive and DRD clearly has a policy on encouraging the use of buses, such as the new rapid transit 'bendy' buses and the new Dundonald Park & Ride Scheme which saw the DRD pay approximately £1.5 million. The hypocrisy of those in power and in cars preaching to others about the benefit of bikes and buses is sickening and could cost Belfast business dearly in the age of online trading.

So what is the total financial cost in providing East Belfast with a few bendy buses and two long bus lanes, well the 'Outline Business Case' estimates the infrastructure costs for the Belfast Rapid Transit in East Belfast at £21.4 million plus risk allowance, inflationary adjustment and preparatory costs. So it could be a lot more!

So how much does it cost to have a few bendy buses and two bus lanes through East Belfast to Titanic Quarter and into West Belfast, well the 'Outline Business Case' for the Belfast Rapid Transit project estimates the total capital cost of the project at £98.5 million.

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Updated: Tuesday, 1st September 2015 14:26