How can we fix the Belfast traffic gridlock?

2116164_ff1c7fb7If you were one of the poor sods stuck in yesterday massive traffic jams  in Belfast you have my sympathies. It took the wife an hour to move 2 miles on the Westlink.

A quick recap. A suspicious object was discovered about 3pm close to the M1 at Lisburn’s Saintfield Road junction. The country-bound section of the motorway was then shut from Blacks Road in west Belfast to Lisburn until 5.30pm when it declared a hoax.

The interesting thing about these situations is even when only the M1 was closed it seems the through the whole traffic system in Belfast into chaos. All routes out of the city in every direction where gridlocked.

Even after the M1 was reopened there were still massive delays. I travelled on the M1 into the city about 7pm and there was still a 1 mile queue to get off the motorway at Stockmans. Other junctions also had massive queues.

Belfast officially has the worst traffic jams in the UK, and yesterday has shown how it is extremely easy for it to grind to a complete halt.

What can we do about it?

Public transport: too many people drive into Belfast for work, but what many people may not know is that the trains are now at capacity as well. Translink need to look at running more trains but with the cutbacks you can be sure they are going to plead the poor mouth. Buses are also well used at peak times. The park and ride schemes also seem to be popular.

Flexible working arrangements: the civil service already has flexi-time for a lot of its staff with many workers starting at 8am or earlier. It is clear that if there was not flex-time the traffic would be even more of a mess.

My own preferred solution would be to dramatically increase the amount of cycle lanes around Belfast. Real cycle lanes not just paint on the road. That would take off some of the pressure and even encourage kids to cycle to school. I know that is not much use if you live in Omagh but it would take some pressure of the normal bottlenecks like the Ormeau Rd etc. I know this will never happen but we can dream.

And what about the contentious bus lanes? Many people complain the buses do not even use them all the time, or cars are parked/stopped in them waiting to pick people up. Time to scrap the bus lanes or better enforce them?

What is your view? How can we improve the traffic flow into the city? Tell us your suggestions below.

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