Northern Ireland

Belfast bus lane due to come into operation

Bus lane
Image caption There were severe traffic jams during the first phase of Belfast on the Move last autumn

A new bus lane is due to come into operation on Friday as part of changes to traffic in Belfast city centre.

The last phase of work, part of the Belfast on the Move initiative, focused on the streets around city hall.

The new bus lane will operate on Wellington Place, Donegall Square North and Chichester Street.

One lane will also be available for general traffic travelling eastbound between Fisherwick Place/College Square East and Victoria Street.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said: "I am greatly encouraged that this important work in the city centre will be completed on time and to an extremely high standard.

"Although much of the work was carried out at off-peak times and overnight to minimise disruption, I would like to thank the travelling public, local businesses and residents for their patience over recent months.

Public transport

"As a result of the works we are already seeing benefits to public transport users and pedestrians with a significant increase in the numbers of people opting to take the bus or train. "

The bus lane will be available for use by buses, permitted taxis, motorcycles and cycles only between 07:00-19:00 BST Monday to Saturday.

Drivers have been advised to allow extra time for their journey if using Wellington Place, Donegall Square North and Chichester Street until they get used to the new road layout.

Traffic that currently travels along the front of city hall to get to the east side of the city centre should consider using alternative routes.

Meanwhile, the Department of Regional Development has revealed that bus and train journeys have increased by 1.3m in a year.

Ulsterbus and Metro services all experienced major rises with NI Railways enjoying an increase of about 900,000 more passenger journeys.

Mr Kennedy said: "In 2011/12, over 77m people used public transport. During 2012/13, provisional figures show this number has risen to over 78.5m.

"This is an incredible rise and proves that when people are provided with a bus and train service that delivers on quality and efficiency then they will use it."

Catherine Mason of Translink said: "This is a great result - over a million more fare-paying customers compared to last year; customer satisfaction is also very high which shows we are getting it right."

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