Chamber encourages minister to ‘think big' to make Belfast move

Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton
Gary McDonald Business Editor

BELFAST Chamber has unveiled a new policy paper outlining ambitious plans for stimulating city living, investing in its roads infrastructure, improving public transport and introducing more pedestrian-friendly initiatives.

And it also says now is the right time to investigate the potential for a high-speed rail link between Belfast and Dublin, which will bring benefits to both economies and attract greater investment.

The Chamber, which represents more than 600 businesses, is encouraging new infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon and her Executive colleagues to “think big” about connectivity in its “Making Belfast Move Better” policy blueprint, where proposals include:

• Follow the UK’s example of backing HS2 and examine the feasibility of developing a high speed rail connection between Belfast and Dublin;

• A step change in public transportation with rapid deployment of phase two of the Glider, improved bus lanes, better park and ride facilities and more investment on zero emission, zero carbon public transport;

• A more pedestrian friendly city with more high quality, shared streets which prioritise pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and taxis;

• The ‘Boulevarding’ of major roads around Belfast city centre to make them more attractive with ‘super crossings’ and more bridges across the Lagan to better connect new developments and existing communities to the city centre;

• Stimulating more city living to ensure that the Council’s ‘Belfast Agenda’ target to increase Belfast’s population by 66,000 people by 2035 with more residential accommodation in central Belfast a sustainable way to grow the city;

• Investment in major road infrastructure projects that will boost the economy like the York Street Interchange and at Titanic Quarter;

• Improved cycling infrastructure with more safe and separated cycling lanes across the city, new cycle parks and the continued development of greenways; and

• The creation of more green and open space – improvement to offer places for citizens of all ages to enjoy life in the city.

Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton said: “Improving how people get into, out of and around our city is crucial to achieving our vision of an economically strong city which is the best possible place to live, work, study, socialise, visit and invest.

“There is virtually no aspect of the life of a successful city that isn’t impacted positively by a first-class connectivity and transportation network.

“Belfast needs an efficient transportation system not just for getting workers to and from their place of employment, but also to improve our sustainability, encourage healthier lifestyles and connect communities.

“Streets that are vibrant, safe and attractive are the foundation of urban life, encouraging people to visit and stay, enabling businesses to flourish and creating a liveable environment, and connections are part of what attracts businesses to invest in cities and act as a magnet for talent and help us realise our regeneration ambitions.”

The Chamber paper makes no reference about how the changes would be funded.

But Mr Hamilton, a former finance minister in Stormont, added: “Striking a balance between making the changes to connectivity that our city needs, and doing so in a gradual, investment-first way, is crucial.”

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