Major changes are afoot for Belfast’s much-criticised bus lanes.
Three 24-hour bus lanes will operate for just 12 hours while measures will be put in place to allow clamping of vehicles illegally parked in bus lanes and clearways.
After complaints prompted a review of the city’s bus lanes it was revealed more than 2,000 people were fined for driving in lanes between midnight and 6am, despite no buses running through the night.
In light of those statistics Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has announced three 24-hour bus lanes at East Bridge Street, Upper Newtownards Road and Saintfield Road at Forestside will now operate between 7am and 7pm from Monday to Saturday.
These new times will come into force from Monday, January 23.
He has also brought forward measures to deter illegal use of bus lanes and clearways in Belfast.
From February the mobile CCTV enforcement vehicle will park on footways, where it is safe to do so, to enforce bus lane restrictions.
There are also plans to introduce a vehicle removal and clamping enforcement operation for bus lanes and clearways later in 2017.
This operation is aimed at drivers who park illegally during the operational hours of bus lanes and clearways on the main arterial routes into and out of Belfast.
The minister said: “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.
“To deal with this problem I plan to deploy an enforcement vehicle to carry out the removal and clamping of illegally parked vehicles in bus lanes and on clearways.”
He added: “Bus lanes play a vital role in creating a modern and effective transport network and contribute to a reduction in congestion and environmental pollution.
“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.
“In modern cities with efficient public transport systems, bus lanes are the norm and vital 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.”