In recent months I have begun to question the role of the Department of Regional Development. As we are all too aware in South Belfast Northern Ireland water is in crisis, the Carinshill park and ride scheme is a white elephant, plans for the management of City Centre traffic are ludicrous and even the thought of considering spending money on bi-lingual road signs in these tough economic times is madness.
The Cairnshill park and ride project was opened in July 2010; however it took five months before buses actually started to service the site. Of the 700 spaces available, on a daily basis no more than 50 are utilised during the busiest rush hour periods. Instead traffic coming into South Belfast from Carryduff is chaos! Extended bus lanes and priority traffic signals for public transport have created bumper to bumper traffic for commuters. I have received numerous complaints from constituents who face an additional 20-30 minutes onto their journey time since the extension of bus lanes.
To add to this congestion, the DRD has drawn up a traffic ‘master plan’ which aims to further remove road space from the private car in favour of public transport, cyclists and pedestrians. However looking at the plan, more problems will ensue with a further 2.6km of bus lanes and 1km of dedicated cycle lanes being created. The plan would also turn much of the City Centre into a one-way system. I have concerns that these plans will cause further grid lock for commuters on already congested routes. It will also turn Sandy Row, the Donegall Road, Donegall Pass and the Markets into rat runs making life for local residents much more difficult.
The latest idea from DRD is to further invoke tensions by erecting road signs in Irish and Ulster Scots. Given recent events and at a time when Sinn Fein are proposing more cuts to Northern Ireland Water, Republicans are intent on wasting public money through a costly consultation exercise that will receive no support.
Sinn Fein needs a reality check. Instead of tribal politics they should be concentrating on fixing essential services like water before coming up with hair brained schemes to increase divisions. Serious and realistic solutions to traffic in Belfast are needed now. After all Belfast was rated as the 7th most congested city in Europe only last summer. The electorate in South Belfast want to see progress on real issues which deliver lasting solutions. Its time to focus on what really matters.