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Patience is urged as rapid transit works get going

By Ciara Quinn

WEST Belfast MP Paul Maskey has urged commuters to be patient as roadworks get under way during the busy back-to-school period to prepare the West Belfast section of the city’s new Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

The extensive preparations for BRT are bound to cause traffic chaos, not only as schoolkids go back to class, but during the busy Christmas period. The enlarging of existing bus lanes, the resurfacing of roads and footpaths and the enhancing of drainage systems is bound to give motorists a major headache, but Mr Maskey asked local people to “bear with it” as the new system will be worth the inconvenience.

Work on the first section of the route, which begins on Monday, will be carried out between the Grosvenor Road and Whiterock Road, with the Department for Regional Development (DRD) telling us it’s their intention to minimise disruption by trying as far as is possible to close lanes only during off-peak hours. The roadworks will take 11 months to complete.

The £100 million system will connect West and East Belfast and the Titanic Quarter via the city centre and the route will incorporate Divis Street, the Falls Road and Andersonstown – and the Stewartstown Road up to a park-and-ride facility in the Colin area. BRT vehicles will run in existing but improved bus lanes, replacing many of the Metro services that currently run in them. Restrictions will be placed on cars so that they will not permitted to access the BRT route during certain times of the day.

Further work is scheduled to start in the next six months on the Andersonstown and Stewartstown roads between Finaghy Road North and the Michael Ferguson Roundabout, with a date to be confirmed. The first section of the route is due to be completed by next summer with BRT expected to become fully operational in September 2017.

Mr Maskey told the Andersonstown News that BRT has “massive potential”. He added: “As the work gets under way on Monday it is worth bearing in mind that this is a phased approach, a three-year process, and there is more consultation to be done, more consultation with residents, community groups, black taxi drivers and Translink and we need them to feed into the process. If done right, we will have one of the best public transport systems in Europe.

“There will be disruption on the road as work starts and I would ask commuters to, for the time being, bear with it and we will reap the benefits of this system when it completes in 2017. BRT represents almost one hundred million pounds of investment that we have been lobbying for. Over the past three years I have been meeting with job creation agencies and businesses to attract employment opportunities for West Belfast. All of them have told me that if we create the right public transport infrastructure and make environmental improvements it will be more attractive and will attract top businesses into our area as well as sustaining the local businesses that are already operating here. The BRT will assist with this and will also allow greater access to other parts of the city for people from our community and vice-versa.”

A Department for Regional Development spokesperson said: “Belfast Rapid Transit will provide a modern, high quality public transport service which will help to integrate communities and link people to jobs, shops, leisure, health and education services.

“The first phase of BRT, which began earlier this year in the East of the city, will connect East Belfast, West Belfast and Titanic Quarter via Belfast city centre.

“With a scheme of this size some inconvenience to road users and the local community is unavoidable. However, the department has worked closely with the contractor, John McQuillan Contracts, to ensure that, where possible, lane closures will be restricted to off-peak periods.”

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