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Minister meets West Belfast traders

29 January, 2008

Sinn Féin Transport Minister Conor Murphy met with the West Belfast Traders' Forum today to discuss parking and traffic management issues in west Belfast.

The Minister said:

"I was pleased to have the opportunity to listen to the issues affecting local traders in west Belfast and in particular their comments on parking, the management of traffic, the need for a rapid transit system and other strategic improvements.

"Whilst there will always be a conflict between the competing needs of local businesses and through traffic such as commuters, I am willing to consider any realistic improvement measures put forward by local traders that will improve parking whilst still keeping traffic moving in west Belfast.

"Arterial routes into Belfast, such as the Falls Road, need to serve a variety of functions, not all of which are fully compatible. It is important that these routes provide good quality high capacity transport corridors during the peak hours. However, they must also sustain vibrant commercial activity during the day as well as facilitating residents of properties that live on these roads."

The Minister has been working with both the local business community through the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Enterprise Council and the West Belfast Taxi Association to examine ways to provide integrated and accessible transport including taxi, bus and a modern rapid transit system for the area in the near future.

"Since taking office, I am particularly keen to meet communities on the ground and to help tackle local issues. Today's discussions with local traders further develops this engagement with the community where we are listening to, and responding to, concerns around traffic flow, congestion and parking at local shops and facilities where we can seek to solve these issues together.

"I am also committed to shaping sustainable public transport, where I hope that providing modern, efficient and accessible services will reduce the car-dependency culture here in the city and therefore ease congestion, enhance traffic flow and help in creating a cleaner environment.

"West Belfast is continuing to attract ever increasing numbers of visitors. It is crucially important that I, along with other departments, ensure the best quality of provision, to compliment community efforts in making west Belfast a vibrant place to live, work and visit."

The Minister also took the opportunity to update the Traders' Forum on the Rapid Transit network envisaged for Belfast. Rapid Transit is recognised as a key priority in the draft Programme for Government. The Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan also recognises it as a major element in the delivery of a step change in the quality of public transport.

The Minister said:

"One route (EWay) utilises a disused railway line through the city centre to the Roral Victoria Hospital (RVH) and beyond into west Belfast. The second (CITI), seeks to address the transport needs for the new development within Titanic Quarter through the city centre to QUB and the City Hospital. The feasibility studies are nearing completion and are considering a range of options including light rail/tram, guided bus and ordinary buses using bus priority measures." ENDS

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