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Agenda item

Belfast Rapid Transit

Minutes:

(Ms. A. Doherty, Planning and Transport Officer, attended in connection with this item)

 

            The Chairperson advised the Committee that Mr. C. de Burca, Director for Transport Projects and Business Services in the Department for Infrastructure, Mr. C. Conway, Chief Executive of Translink, and Mr. S. Duffy, Belfast Taxi Group, were in attendance and had requested to speak to the Committee on the item.  The Committee acceded to the requests and the Chairperson welcomed them to the meeting.

 

            The Planning and Transport Officer advised the Committee that the Council had been requested to submit a response to the Department for Infrastructure’s proposal to make two Orders, which would revoke and replace existing bus lanes and introduce new lengths of bus lanes in the city centre, operating between 7.00am and 7.00pm, Monday to Saturday inclusive.  She pointed out that, under the proposals, only buses, cycles, motorcycles, permitted taxis and certain specified vehicles would be permitted to use the specified bus lanes during those hours of operation.

 

            She explained to the Committee that the following Motion had also been referred to the Committee by the Council, at its meeting on 3rd January, under Standing Order 13(f):

 

“This Council shall submit to the Department for Infrastructure a corporate response to the Consultation on Bus Lanes within Belfast, as follows:

 

The Belfast Rapid Transport (BRT) lanes should not operate from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday;

 

Operation hours of 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. from Monday to Friday is sufficient for the operation of the BRT lane without general traffic;

 

Ordinary drivers and businesses in the area will suffer badly, funerals processions will be affected and taxi drivers will find it increasingly difficult to earn a decent wage;

 

All taxis should be allowed into all BRT routes and all bus lanes in Belfast on a permanent basis; and

 

The recent twelve-week trial allowing all taxis to use the lanes in East and West Belfast and in the City centre was a success and made a noticeable improvement to traffic on these routes and should now be introduced across Belfast in all lanes permanently.”

 

            Mr. de Burca outlined that, under current proposals, the bus lanes would operate Monday – Saturday, 7am - 7pm, with a 2 hour loading window between 10am-12pm. 

 

            In relation to funeral corteges, which were alluded to within the Motion, he confirmed to the Committee that the Department would not prosecute a cortege moving between the church or house and the Cemetery.  He clarified to the Committee that allowing private hire taxis into bus lanes would be a Ministerial decision and that civil servants could not implement a change in the legislation without Ministerial sign-off.

 

            He confirmed to the Members that Public Hire taxis (Class B&C taxis) were allowed in the bus lanes at all times. He explained that a change to that policy would require Ministerial approval and that, without an Executive, the Department could not implement any change.

 

            Mr. Duffy explained that he represented taxi drivers from across the city.  He pointed out that a recent trial which allowed private hire taxis to use bus lanes in Belfast had been an overwhelming success, with customers having benefitted from cheaper fares and reaching their destinations quicker. He reported that taxis were able to use bus lanes in a number of cities across Great Britain and Ireland, including Manchester, Glasgow, Cork, Dublin and Cardiff.  He emphasised that taxis provided a vital community service in the city, by taking people who were unable to use public transport to hospital appointments and to school.  He explained to the Committee that taxi drivers would be severely disadvantaged if they were forced out of bus lanes for twelve hours, six days a week.

 

Proposal

 

            Moved by Councillor Beattie,

            Seconded by Councillor O’Hara        

 

      This Council shall submit to the Department for Infrastructure a corporate response to the Consultation on Bus Lanes within Belfast, as follows:

 

The Belfast Rapid Transport (BRT) lanes should not operate from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday;

 

Operation hours of 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. from Monday to Friday is sufficient for the operation of the BRT lane without general traffic;

 

Ordinary drivers and businesses in the area will suffer badly, funerals processions will be affected and taxi drivers will find it increasingly difficult to earn a decent wage;

 

All taxis should be allowed into all BRT routes and all bus lanes in Belfast on a permanent basis; and

 

The recent twelve-week trial allowing all taxis to use the lanes in East and West Belfast and in the City centre was a success and made a noticeable improvement to traffic on these routes and should now be introduced across Belfast in all lanes permanently.

 

            A Member questioned the necessity of the BRT lanes operating on a Saturday and asked whether the Department for Infrastructure could review the necessity of Belfast Rapid Transit lanes operating on Saturdays.

 

            Mr. de Burca confirmed to the Members that an ongoing review would take place of the new BRT scheme as was standard with the implementation of any new system.

 

            Mr. Conway added that, similar to a tram system, the Belfast Rapid Transit glider service needed priority lanes throughout city and, if they did not operate the lanes on Saturdays, Translink would likely be forced to operate regular buses on Saturdays, thereby cancelling the benefit from the £90million investment.

 

Amendment

 

Moved by Alderman Kingston,

Seconded by Cllr Dorrian,

 

      The Council strongly supports the introduction of the Belfast Rapid Transit system as it is considered that it would greatly improve the quality of public transport in Belfast and could be a driver for regeneration as well as provide high quality access to and linkages between jobs, hospitals, schools and colleges in different parts of the city. An aim of the Council’s Belfast Agenda is to develop “a vibrant, attractive, connected and environmentally sustainable city. The agenda sets out a number of stretch goals including the target to increase the use of sustainable transport in the city by 15 per cent by 2021. It is considered that the implementation of the BRT scheme will contribute towards this goal.

 

The Council is supportive of the proposals for the Bus Lane Orders in the City Centre and Belfast Rapid Transit, East and West corridors with the exception of the proposal for Donegall Square East, to revoke and replace the existing bus lane. The Council has grave concerns about traffic congestion in the City centre, particularly at the back of City Hall, resulting from the arrangement for the prohibition on vehicles (except buses and emergency services) going from the bus lane on Donegall Square East into Adelaide Street from 7.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m.

 

The Council would request that the Department reconsider the Order to replace the existing bus lane in Donegall Square East and remove the prohibition on vehicles entering Adelaide Street from 7.00am to 7.00 pm.

 

            On a vote by show of hands, seven Members voted for the amendment and eleven against and it was declared lost.

 

            The original proposal standing in the name of Councillor Beattie and seconded by Councillor O’Hara was put to the meeting.

 

            On a vote by show of hands, seven Members voted for the proposal and eleven against and it was also declared lost.

 

Proposal

 

            Moved by Councillor Dudgeon,

            Seconded by Councillor Boyle,

           

      That bus lanes should only operate 5 days per week, Monday - Friday, and that Transport NI should provide evidence for the necessity for bus lanes to operate on Saturdays.

 

            On a vote by show of hands, four Members voted for the proposal and fourteen against and it was declared lost.

 

            The Chief Executive pointed out that, unless further proposals were put forward, the Committee therefore had no agreed response to the consultation.

 

Proposal

 

            Moved by Councillor Beattie,

            Seconded by Councillor Hargey,

 

      That the Committee’s response to the consultation is that all taxis should be permitted to use all bus lanes and BRT routes across the City.

 

Amendment

 

            Moved by Councillor Howard

            Seconded by Alderman McGimpsey

 

      That the Council agrees with the DfI’s proposals for the introduction of bus lanes which would operate Monday – Saturday, between 7am-7pm, and, after six months, that the Department should review the necessity of 12 hour bus lanes operating on Saturdays.

 

            At this point, a Member questioned whether the amendment was valid, as it combined two previous proposals which had already been considered by the Committee and lost.  Other Members disagreed and stated that they believed it constituted a further proposal on the matter.

 

            A Member requested legal advice on the issue.  The Chief Executive advised that it was a matter of process and that a legal opinion would not help in this instance.

 

            The original proposal standing in the name of Councillor Beattie and seconded by Councillor Hargey was put to the meeting.

 

            On a vote by show of hands, seven Members voted for the proposal and two against and it was declared carried.

 

            A Member requested that the further proposal regarding the days and hours of operation be considered by the Committee.

 

            The Chairperson declared that the original proposal which had been carried was the Committee’s response to the consultation.

 

            A further Member added that there was no question over whether the original proposal had been carried, but that the further proposal should also be considered as it was not contrary to the decision which had just been taken.

 

            The further proposal standing in the name of Councillor Howard and seconded by Alderman McGimpsey was thereupon put to the meeting.

 

            On a vote by show of hands, ten Members voted for it and nine against and it was declared carried.

 

            Accordingly, the Committee agreed that the following response be submitted to the Department for Infrastructure’s (DfI) consultation on the Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) bus lanes as the Council’s response, subject to ratification by the Council at its meeting on 1st February:

 

1.     that the Council agrees that all taxis should have access to all bus lanes and BRT routes across the City; and

2.      that the Council agrees with the DfI’s proposals for the introduction of bus lanes which would operate Monday-Saturday, between 7am and 7pm, and, after six months, that the Department should review the necessity of 12 hour bus lanes operating on Saturdays.

 

Supporting documents:

 

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