West Belfast bus lanes launch sees more than 40 warnings issued
MORE than 40 motorists have been caught using new 12-hour bus lanes in west Belfast since they came into operation last week.
A total of 43 warning notices were issued during the first week of restrictions in preparation for the introduction of the 'Glider' service, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) said.
There has been a "reduction in the number of illegally parked vehicles as the days go on", a spokesman added.
Drivers caught in the bus lanes in their first fortnight of operation will be issued with warnings rather than £90 fines, unless they are caught more than once.
The 12-hour restrictions were yesterday extended to east Belfast, stretching from the city centre to Dundonald.
In the first three hours, just one driver was caught breaching the new regulations on East Bridge Street, Upper Newtownards Road and Albertbridge Road.
The changes will also apply on Belfast Harbour Estate, Sydenham Road, Queen's Quay, Queen's Bridge, Queen Elizabeth Bridge and Oxford Street from August 13.
The 12-hour restrictions are being introduced to accommodate Glider buses which will launch on September 3.
Translink hopes the new network will reduce public transport journey times by 25 per cent.
DfI said the bus lanes are being introduced ahead of Glider's launch to "allow road users the opportunity to get used to the new arrangements during the summer when traffic levels are traditionally lower".
Vehicles displaying a blue badge can stop for up to 10 minutes for dropping off or collecting a blue-badge holder. There is also a loading and unloading window from 10am to 2pm.
Some traders have expressed concerns about the bus lanes, fearing they will harm business, but others including cyclists have welcomed the changes.
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, called for DfI to extend the one-strike warning to the first year of the scheme "to give motorists more time".
"This scheme is a long overdue investment for Belfast's transport infrastructure and we want to see it succeed. With a little of flexibility, we can ensure no independent trader is negatively impacted," he said.
Last week, DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly faced criticism after expressing concern about a Glider bus stop in east Belfast being called 'Short Strand'.
The South Belfast MP wrote to officials about the halt on Albertbridge Road after being contacted by a constituent, claiming it was "clearly not a Short Strand stop".
Translink however pointed out that the new bus stop had simply replaced a previous Metro stop of the same name.