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Rapid Transit studies to expand

23 July, 2007

Sinn Féin Transport Minister Conor Murphy announced that ongoing feasibility studies into pilot rapid transit schemes for Belfast will expand to cover other parts of the city.

Originally the studies were to look at EWAY running between Dundonald and the city centre and CITI route linking the city centre through Titanic Quarter to the George Best Belfast City Airport and the new retail development in the Harbour Estate.

The Minister said: "Rapid transit should deliver to Belfast a 21st century public transport service and I want as much of the city as possible to benefit from it.

"The two pilot schemes under consideration serving the Newtownards corridor and Titanic Quarter/City Airport and beyond aim to terminate in the city centre. There are, however, strong and compelling transport reasons why they should extend through the city centre to other parts of Belfast.

"Extended routes to Queen's University in south Belfast and to the Royal Victoria Hospital and beyond in west Belfast will mean that we will be able to explore the concept of a rapid transit network rather than single, unconnected routes and help meet the transport needs of a wider section of our community to access these major education and health locations.

"These studies will result in a business case that will identify the best routes and technology for Belfast. Rapid transit of whatever form is expensive and it is crucial that we make the right decisions. I want to get the right scheme for Belfast and the studies will help play their part in this aim."

It is envisaged that the studies will initially report on the pilot routes terminating in the city centre around mid-September, with a supplementary report on the extended routes around the end of the year.

Notes to Editors:

1. The Regional Transportation Strategy (RTS) and the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan (BMTP) recognised the value of introducing rapid transit services in Belfast.

2. The BMTP published in 2004 stated that the pilot stage of a rapid transit network could be implemented (subject to economic appraisal, budgetary processes and the completion of statutory processes) within the 2015 Plan period. It confirmed EWAY as the preferred option which would serve the Newtownards corridor and its success would dictate the extent if any of further development of the rapid transit network.

3. The BMTP identified 3 other possible routes which it proposed to plan in detail for implementation after the 2015 Plan period. They are:

WWAY (West Way as a rapid transit route from Belfast city centre into west Belfast;
CITI Route (City Airport Titanic Quarter Route) as a new route linking Belfast city centre and George Best Belfast City Airport through the Titanic Quarter and the new retail development in the Belfast Harbour Estate; and
Super Route - in the Downpatrick corridor.

4. While EWAY remains the preferred choice for a pilot scheme it was considered prudent to also include CITI for further study given the regeneration and development of the Titanic Quarter and the potential demand for public transport and the opportunity to fully integrate transport planning with the proposed development on the site.

5. The extension to the studies, particularly into west Belfast, will seek to incorporate WWay.

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