The Acting Chairperson introduced Mr. K. Monaghan, Eastern Divisional Manager, Mr. T. McClay, Belfast North Section Engineer, Mr. G. Doherty, Belfast South Section Engineer, and Mr. C. de Burca, Director for Transport Projects and Business Services in the Department for Infrastructure, to the Committee and they were admitted to the meeting.
Mr. Monaghan provided the Committee with updates on the main strategic transportation schemes for the city. In relation to the York Street Interchange, he advised the Members that the tender process to appoint a contractor to bring the scheme to construction-ready stage had been completed but that the tender award could not occur due to a legal challenge. He advised the Committee that a date for the legal hearing had been agreed for February 2018 and that, following a Ministerial approval, the process of consulting local residents and key stakeholders on issues identified in the Inspector’s Report had since commenced.
He provided the Members with an update on the extension of the bus lanes along the M1, between the Applegreen services and the Sprucefield Park and Ride site at Blaris, and citybound on the M2 between Fortwilliam and Duncrue Street. He reminded the Committee that tendered costs for the project had come in significantly higher than expected, and so the contract had not been awarded. He explained that a review of the works had taken place, where they had considered the technology used in the smart motorways across the UK, and that a new scheme would be going out to tender early next year.
He advised the Committee of the creation of the Antrim Road tidal urban clearway, from the Cliftonville Road to the M2 over-bridge, which would operate citybound lanes between 8am and 9.30am and countrybound lanes between 4.30pm and 6pm.
He also highlighted to the Members that the first Residents’ Parking scheme would shortly be implemented in the College Park Avenue/Rugby Road area in south Belfast, subject to satisfactory completion of the statutory procedures.
The Committee was also advised that Transport NI had recently received funding from the Department for Communities to widen and resurface the Comber Greenway and that this would take place in the early part of 2018.
Mr. de Burca provided the Members with an overview of a number of the recently completed works across the east and west of the city in preparation for the introduction of the Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme, which was due to launch in September 2018.
He advised that an average of 3 halts per week would be installed across the city, with 103 halts in total.
During discussion, he pointed out that, while the recently replaced roundabouts on the Whiterock Road and Kennedy Way had drawn some criticism initially, the traffic flow had improved. He highlighted that the CITI route works had been suspended over Christmas.
He advised the Members that an example of the new ‘Glider’ vehicles which would be used for BRT would be on public display at Custom House Square, on 13th and 14th December 2017, from 11am-3pm.
He highlighted that the consultation on the 12-hour bus lane legislation for BRT was open and that the deadline was 12th January, 2018.
During discussion of the recent snow and ice, Mr. Monaghan outlined that main roads, those being roads with more than 1500 vehicles or hilly roads with more than 1000 vehicles per day, were gritted across Belfast, as were settlements with more than 100 dwellings. He outlined that this network covered most schools but not all. In response to a Member’s question regarding the collection of grit from the Transport NI HQ at Airport Road, he advised the Members that they did not provide grit outside their HQ anymore due to a previous legal challenge.
In response to a Member’s question about the North/South line of BRT, Mr. de Burca advised that preliminary studies had been carried out and that there were a number of possible routes for the line to take, particularly in the south of the city.
A further Member questioned the Department’s rationale behind the prohibition of vehicles travelling from Donegall Square East onto Adelaide Street during bus lane operating hours. Mr. de Burca explained that this arrangement had been implemented as part of Belfast on the Move scheme to deter traffic from using that route as a short cut through the city centre from the northwest to the southeast of the city. He clarified that the Department’s view was that the current arrangement was a success, and highlighted that the number of motorists illegally driving from Donegall Square East onto Adelaide Street had decreased from a daily average of 106 in September, 2015, to an average of 35 per day in September, 2017.
(Councillor Dudgeon, Deputy Chairperson, in the Chair)
The Members drew the attention of the officers from Transport NI to a number of other matters, a number of which are set out hereunder:
· that Transport NI would directly consult those traders which fronted onto Wellington Place, Chichester Street and Queen Street, regarding the operational hours of the loading bays in the City Centre;
· that a Residents’ Parking scheme for the Malone/Wellington Park area would continue to be considered;
· that Members would send the names of streets which required gullies to be cleared and locations streetlights which needed repaired directly to Transport NI;
· to consider whether yellow lines were necessary in Lower Donegall Road and Fitzwilliam Street;
· that Transport NI representatives would undertake a site visit to consider changing the crossing at My Lady’s Road/Ravenhill Road to a pelican crossing;
· that Transport NI would liaise with the developer who was carrying out construction in Montgomery Street/Joy Street to discuss ways in which traffic disruption could be minimised;
· that Transport NI would consider moving the bus lane from Glengoland Avenue to Glengoland Park;
· to provide information on the adoption of the Colinvale development in Dunmurry;
· to consider the replacement of the traffic crossing at the Knock Road A55/Braniel estate junction with a Toucan crossing or a cyclists crossing (funding dependent);
· that a site visit would take place to consider increasing the size of the yellow box at the junction of Great Victoria Street and the Grosvenor Road; and
· that the out of hours contact number for Transport NI would be circulated to the Members.