Belfast Hosts Bus Rapid Transit Conference
Just days after Transport Minister Conor Murphy and the Executive gave Rapid Transit the go ahead, transport specialists from Europe have gathered in Belfast. This is the first time that the annual Bus Rapid Transit Conference has been held in the north.
Speaking from the conference, Minister Murphy said: "It is fitting that just days after my announcement that rapid transit for Belfast is to progress to the detailed design stage, so many Transport specialists are here discussing this issue. The timing of today's conference is therefore a wonderful opportunity for us to learn from best practice elsewhere.
"This is an exciting time for the city of Belfast, and there is no doubt that this bus based rapid transit system will contribute greatly to the city's development.
"It is well understood that around the world well-functioning transport systems are vital to the success of any economy and to people's quality of life. Strong, vibrant cities need modern and efficient transport systems. Rapid transit for Belfast will provide faster, higher quality services with new routes serving new opportunities and will help to regenerate and open up new development opportunities along its routes."
The Minister highlighted that Rapid Transit for Belfast is a key priority in the Programme for Government with a commitment to start construction work on the first scheme by 2011.
In keeping with world class standards, the system for Belfast will have high quality halts with level access to vehicles, real time information systems and off vehicle ticketing to speed up the boarding process. The detailed design stage will involve a number of statutory assessments and consultation with all stakeholders, including the local communities.
The Minister continued: "We already know that investment in public transport strengthens the economy, creates jobs, and supports sustainable development. Considerable amounts have already been invested in public transport in the North of Ireland recently and more is planned over the next few years. My key objective is to encourage commuters and other travellers to use public transport instead of the private car and while recognising the need for choice, I believe rapid transit is a crucial element in achieving this objective".
It is estimated that the rapid transit network for Belfast will cost around £150m to complete and the Department will continue to explore opportunities to draw in additional private-sector finance. CRÍOCH