THE next phase of a radical reorganisation of the roads in Belfast city centre has been delayed by two weeks at Minister Danny Kennedy’s request in an attempt to help Belfast traders whose business has been hit by weeks of flag protests.
The changes, which will include the removal of one lane of traffic along the front of the City Hall and its replacement with a bus lane, will begin on January 28.
DRD says that the first phase of the scheme – which caused uproar among motorists and business owners when the traffic lanes along the back of the City Hall were halved in September – had led to a 40 per cent cut in the traffic along that street and a two per cent increase in bus passengers.
At a media briefing yesterday, senior DRD transport planner Ciaran de Burca implicitly acknowledged the problems from the September changes, saying that they had “learnt quite a lot of lessons from what happened”.
He said that the aim of the scheme is to make motorists go around, rather than through, the city centre.
One of the key changes will see only buses, taxis and bicycles allowed to go straight across from Donegall Square East (past the Ulster Bank) to Adelaide Street, in an attempt to stop traffic using the roads around the City Hall as a short-cut.
Traffic travelling from north to south Belfast will instead be encouraged to use Great Victoria Street.
Most of the work will be carried out at night or the weekends to minimise disruption but Mr Kennedy admitted that there would be a “bedding in” period for the new arrangements and urged the public to be “patient”.