More hard shoulder on NI’s motorway network opened up for buses
A plan to turn more of the Province’s motorway hard shoulders into bus lanes comes into effect next Monday.
It is the culmination of a programme of work costing about £4m, and is aimed at improving journey times for passengers on the M1 (which runs between Dungannon and Belfast) and the M2 (which runs from Belfast to Antrim area).
Buses have already been able to use hard shoulders in certain areas at times of congestion since 1999, but this extends the distance that such hard-shoulder bus lanes run for, and the hours when they can be used.
The Belfast-bound lanes will operate between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday, and a maximum speed of 40mph will apply.
The Department of Infrastructure said the scheme includes message signs to advise when the bus lanes are in operation, upgraded CCTV, and priority signalling for buses at the Fortwilliam and Duncrue Street junctions.
Stephen Pollock, senior engineer in the department, said the move should “assist key bus and Park-and-Ride services on the M1 and M2 approaches to Belfast which have become some of the most congested sections of the road network, particularly at peak times”.
He added: “Around one in five of the people heading towards Belfast on the M1 in the morning peak travel by bus and coach. These latest improvements mean passengers commuting by bus from Sprucefield to Belfast city centre can expect to arrive 10 to 15 minutes earlier than those travelling by private car.”
The department said that, at all times, the hard shoulder will remain available for use in an emergency.
The new M1 sections run for 2.9 miles (4.6km) from junction 7 (Sprucefield) and junction 6 (Lisburn) and between junction 6 and Lisburn Services (Applegreen).
On the M2, two new sections of bus lane totalling 1.4 miles (2.2km) will run between junction 2 (Greencastle) and junction 1 (Fortwilliam) and between junction 1 and junction 1B (Duncrue Street).
This takes the total number of miles of hard-shoulder bus lanes on the M1 and M2 to roughly nine (14.5km).
These were operational from 7.30am to 9.30am, but all such lanes will now run from 7am to 7pm.
Work on creating the new stretches began in August 2018.