AQO 772/16-21

Ms Michaela Boyle
Sinn Féin
West Tyrone

Tabled Date: 17/11/2016
Answered On Date: 21/12/2016
Priority Written: No

To ask the Minister for Infrastructure for his assessment of how congestion can be eased in Belfast City Centre.

Traffic congestion at peak times is a common problem in most medium and large cities and Belfast is no different in that during the rush hour our road and transportation system operates at its maximum capacity. It only takes a minor incident, such as a breakdown or minor collision on one of the key routes into the city, to cause significant traffic delays.
The objective of a modern transport strategy is both to enable to swift and efficient transit of people, goods and services and also to make places good to work, live and work in.
My PfG targets are to improve journey times on key economic corridors and to enhance the usage of public transport and active travel – both will only work if there are actions taken in three areas.
Firstly long term infrastructure improvements to tackle bottlenecks and pinch points in the road network are needed.  I have made it clear the A5 and A6 are my priority projects, but if finance allows I also have plans to address other key bottle necks, including in Belfast, the York Street Interchange scheme.
Secondly, we need to make public transport in Belfast a more attractive option for people.  BRT and other improvements such as bus lanes which provide quicker and more predictable journey times are key to this.
Furthermore, my Department plans to extend the existing M1 hard-shoulder busway to Blaris and to construct a new M2 hard-shoulder running busway to Fort William.
I am also developing better bicycle infrastructure and the schemes recently completed in Alfred Street, Durham Street, College Avenue and Queen Street are recent examples of the fresh approach I am taking in this area.
Thirdly, in the short term we need to make sure we do all we can to manage problems when they arise to minimise disruption.  My Department works closely with the PSNI who lead on the response to incidents on all parts of the road network, to ensure breakdowns are cleared quickly
Reviews are carried out after each major incident to ensure any lessons learned are adopted quickly.
So in conclusion, whilst my Department has a part to play in addressing congestion, the issues here go far wider, recognising that the road network will never be able to resolve all the issues – some of this goes to the trade-offs people are willing to make between the convenience of their own cars and the time taken to travel.