Northern Ireland news

Plans to extend Glider to north and south Belfast to be submitted within months

The Glider service connects west and east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

PLANS to extend Glider buses to north and south Belfast are due to be submitted within months.

The £90 million rapid transport system currently links east and west Belfast and Titanic Quarter with the city centre.

The service, which was put into operation in September 2018, has boosted passenger numbers by 30 per cent according to figures released in September last year.

Plans to extend the Glider to north and south Belfast, together with a link to Queen's University and the City Hospital, have been included in the Belfast Region City Deal bid.

In response to an assembly question from Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw, infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon said the business case for extending the service will be submitted in spring.

"The Glider has been a great success in encouraging more people onto public transport and in reducing carbon emissions along Belfast Rapid Transit routes," she said.

Read More: Translink chief says £3bn needed for public transport over the next ten years

"I want to build on this success and am currently exploring what options are available to extend the service to north and south Belfast.

"Outline business cases for all projects are to be submitted by spring 2020, to allow Belfast Region City Deal partners to consider priorities and funding. The approval to extend Belfast Rapid Transit and the budget to deliver it will also be subject to executive approval."

A service linking north and south Belfast could cost up to £80 million.

Last week, a senior civil servant warned that rail and bus company Translink is "in jeopardy" after its funding was cut in 2015/16.

Department for Infrastructure official John McGrath said the company had managed to maintain the public transport network by drawing on its reserves but is now "running out of options".

He said it faces a deficit of about £28m in 2021.

In a statement last night, a DfI spokeswoman said: "The Belfast Region City Deal includes a proposal for a second, north-south Glider route building on the success of the east-west route.

"The department is currently preparing an interim outline business case which will provide an assessment of how such a proposal would deliver on the objectives of the City Deal.

"This interim business case is due to be submitted by the end of May 2020.

"The department is working closely with the relevant councils, partners and key stakeholders to take forward a feasibility and options appraisal which will help to identify the most viable north-south route options.

"A number of routes will be assessed and following public consultation a preferred option will be published by the department. This will form the basis of a full business case."

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