First mooted more than a decade ago when First Minister Peter Robinson served as Minister of Regional Development, Belfast’s long awaited rapid transit system (BRT) finally got the green light yesterday from the current holder of the post Danny Kennedy.
As work started on a massive park and ride at Dundonald on the easter edges of the city, Mr Kennedy confirmed he had signed off £20 million for the new buses that will eventually ply several routes into the city centre.
“This facility is due to become operational by the end of 2014 and will be served by existing buses until the start of Belfast Rapid Transit services in 2017,” said Mr Kennedy.
“It will further enhance the Park & Ride offering for commuters travelling to Belfast, in particular those travelling from the Ards Peninsula.
Initially three BRT routes are planned to link Dundonald in east Belfast, the proposed Colin Town Centre in west Belfast, and the Titanic Quarter via the city centre. Construction work on the rapid transit routes in east and West Belfast is expected to start next month.
Subject to the success of these initial routes and the future availability of funding, the inherent flexibility of this bus-based system will allow it to be extended to serve north and south Belfast.
It will take approximately three years for the procurement process to deliver the proposed fleet of 40 rapid transit vehicles.
“The BRT vehicles will be of a very high quality and will use the latest technologies,” the Minister added.
“They will promote an image of Belfast as a modern, vibrant city and provide an excellent environment for passengers in terms of comfort, space, security and on-board information.”
The BRT system will also incorporate high quality halts enabling easy access to vehicles, real-time information systems for easier journey planning and off-vehicle ticketing to speed up the boarding process.
Services are expected to start by autumn 2017.
“I am committed to supporting the growing number of passengers who choose to use public transport and I wish to further enhance services and infrastructure to meet future demands,” said Mr Kennedy.
“Belfast Rapid Transit is an innovative and ambitious project that will create a modern and dynamic public transport system for Belfast, one that will provide people with better access to jobs, hospitals, shops, schools, colleges, leisure and entertainment facilities.”