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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I’ve seen that people here were talking about Belfast’s proposed rapid transport system earlier on in the year. Here are some more details on the scheme, taken from the DRD’s report from February.

Belfast is set to get 3 new rapid transport routes. EWAY will connect Donegall Square with Dundonald, via the disused Comber rail corridor. CITI will connect Donegall Square with the Titanic Quarter. WWAY will connect Europa Bus Station with West Belfast and the Royal Hospital, possibly terminating at McKinstry Road Derriaghy or a new housing estate on the Monagh bypass.

Earlier this year Regional Development minister Conor Murphy ruled out that the scheme would use bus technology rather than light rail. See the video of this here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7336238.stm
However the government have promised that the system will be designed to allow an upgrade to light rail in the future.

Mimicking tram travel, this much cheaper to build bus-based system will have sections of dedicated track. There will be fewer stops than an ordinary bus would have, and the stops are likely to be much more accessible to the disabled. Bus frequency will likely be every 5 minutes between 07:00 and 10:00, every 5 or 10 minutes between 10:00 and 1700, every 10 or 15 minutes in the evening, and every 15 minutes on a Sunday.

It has not been decided whether or not the Government will spend extra money to equip the system with guided technology. These are sections of the route where the bus is able to drive itself. For example, on the Comber Greenway section of the EWAY, there will be no other traffic, and the bus could drive on automatic pilot, probably between two curbs. The advantage of this system is that it reduces the need for wide bus lanes, particularly useful when space is at a premium. However it is next to impossible that any of the three routes would be completely automatic- all would require a driver.

These are the short listed route options for the journeys:

CITI



Donegall Square East is to be the start of both the CITI & EWAY routes. Travelling along Chichester Street (and May Street for the inbound route), past the Albert Clock and Laganside Bus Station (it is unknown if passengers will alight here), it will cross the Lagan via Queens Bridge.

CITI will serve the proposed BIFHE campus on Queens Campus, and the existing Queens Technology Park. Terminating at Abercorn Crescent, the scheme will seek contributions from the developers behind the Titanic Quarter.

There is an option of extending the CITI south to the City Hospital via University Road and Lisburn Road. The DRD feels that they have to look more into what effect this will have on congestion/parking in the University area, and so have not included this with the core CITI scheme. It seems they will only consider implementing once the route has been operating several years.



There was initially a plan to extend the CITI east towards the City Airport. This has been shelved, primarily because they feel the cost of building a swing bridge (to allow boats access) across the Musgrave Channel is far too expensive. They also have issues with the fact that the route would cross through private land owned by Shorts (the DRD have no plans for a stop serving employees).

Public consultation and further planning should take place between 2009 & 2011. Construction should have started by at the latest 2012.
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EWAY



EWAY will cross the Lagan by either the Albertbridge or Queens Bridge. If the latter, the bus will join the old railway corridor east of Dee Street bridge. All routes will cross the Holywood Arches junction to enter what is currently the Comber Greenway.

Of the routes short listed, the government is most keen on the Sydenham road option. This will share some of it’s infrastructure with CITI, and would probably see a stop close to the Odyssey Centre and Titanic Quarter gateway. While the Albertbridge option offers integration with Central Station, Sydenham Road is preferred. The latter is close to Bridge End station. The report makes no mention of why all of the EWAY routes return to Belfast via a short section of East Bridge Street, whereas the CITI travels on May Street from the very start. The only reason for this that I can think of is to reduce car congestion and to avoid several buses bunching up behind each other.

The outer section of the route will use the disused rail corridor at least as far as East Link Road. It will then likely continue to Quarry Corner (where Belfast Road meets the Newtownards dual carriageway) where it will terminate at a park & ride. Originally the government planned to route the bus east of Ballybeen via a new link road at Millmount. This option is attractive to them as they could seek financing from the developers of the proposed Millmount housing scheme. But now equal consideration is being given to the prospect of the bus driving along the Newtownards Road through Dundonald Village. No matter what option is taken, the route will certainly terminate in a park and ride.

Public consultation and further planning should take place between 2009 & 2012. Construction should have started by at the latest 2013.
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WWAY



It is undecided whether the WWAY will actually drive through the grounds of the Royal Hospital, or whether passengers will be dropped off on the Grosvenor Road. The former will use the new seperated Europa Westlink bus lane, then crossing the Westlink close to the hospital pedestrian bridge.
The routes along the Glen & Springfield roads are the cheapest options to build (largely due to their short length) but the more heavily populated Andersonstown and Stewartstown Roads will attract more passengers. As the housing at Glenmona is still at planning stage, it is hard to gauge the demand for the WWAY to finish there.

The government is also committed to improving transport links to the Dairy Farm shopping centre (currently without a bus service), where the route might terminate. The report concedes that the proposed park & ride at McKinstry Road will have little patronage, given how close it is to the existing Blacks Road one. The current WWAY routes offer little opportunities for dedicated track, the vast majority of the routes sharing road space with ordinary traffic.

Public consultation and further planning should take place between 2010 & 2013. Construction should have started by at the latest 2016.
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As of yet, the Government have made no mention of the siting of stops. They have also said very little of how the buses will share road space with cars. It is unknown how the routes will cross roads, e.g. bridges, subways, level crossings, traffic lights. In this report at least, the DRD shows no interest in altering existing infrastructure plans to ease rapid transport. For e.g. it is planned that Station Street flyover will be demolished. This could prove troublesome for CITI & EWAY, but the bus schemes are going to have to adapt to this, rather than the bridge being adapted to the needs of the buses.
 

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Cutbacks could halt Sunday trains



A cost-cutting proposal by Northern Ireland Railways could mean the end of train services on Sundays, the BBC understands.

The Department of Regional Development, which funds railways, is seeking extra money to prevent cutbacks amid rising fuel bills and maintenance costs.

If this funding is not provided, one scenario would see Sunday train services being stopped.

A second scenario would also mean no trains running after 2200 on weekdays.

Such stringent cuts might not be enough to make up Northern Ireland Railways' projected short-fall and prevent dramatic fare rises, it is understood.

Translink said there were no plans at the moment to curtail services, but the company said it remained under constant financial pressure and would keep its plans under review.
Whatever about trams or buses or anything else - this is unbelievable^^:bash:
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
NIR is a substandard service at the best of times, but it looks like it could get worse. There is little enough incentive to use the train as it is. If you think of the Lisburn line where there is a stop every mile or so, you could easily turn that into a suburban rail service not unlike the ones they have in England. Double the frequency to 15 minutes and people might think of it as a tube type service and ridership would increase. But the way Translink runs things (or perhaps how the govt funds them) will make sure that that never happens.

Unlike the vast majority of bus routes in the country, the train is the only reliable form of transport on a sunday, and now they could be taking away even that. Yet more proof that the profit motive has no place in public transport.
 

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As I've said in other posts a problem surely has to be our low population density. For these projects to be viable a critical density (rather than mass necessarily) of people is needed. Unfortunately given our disparate population in NI, transport policy will continue to be focused on providing for the car.

I agree with the points made about the Lisburn-Belfast line. Along this corridor I would imagine there are enough people to justify a high frequency, multiple stops service.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Obviously the decision to not use trams was a cost cutting exercise. For much of the East Belfast route the ‘track’ will be segregated from traffic. They still have limited space to play around with, but if they use the guided technology I assume that the bus track is only a few inches wider than a tram. However there is no particular affection for the guided technology in the DRD’s report, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t use it purely to save a million or 2.

They have been arguing for the bus choice by using terms like ‘flexibility of services’ compared to the limts ‘fixed’ rails. But of course the buses we have had for the past few decades have been anything but flexible. Translink aren’t good at starting new routes (and Translink will probably end up the operator of Rapid Transport), and there are plenty of areas that have a piss poor service, simply because they are relatively new areas. Supply hasn’t met demand. You’ve got to remember that the whole Metro rebranding was forced on Translink by the government, so it’s not an example of their good initiative.

People will naturally see a bus as second rate, so it is essential that the govt do all it can to stop people thinking that. It’s partly psychological, and even simple things like having a tube style map would give people greater confidence in it. Sadly they are showing us photos of the prototype models, and saying they look like trams when they clearly don’t. And if the diesel engines cough & splutter when they struggle to reach 40mph (which ordinary buses noisily do) then it could be enough to make the system fail.

In the report it is what they are not telling us that is most worrying. Take the EWAY having to cross Dee Street bridge (which is likely to be demolished just for them to have to build a new one), then having to cross Holywood Arches. This is a bad enough junction as it is, and currently has several annoying traffic islands that pedestrians have to cross just to get to the other side of the road. There could be a tram crossing these roads every 2.5 minutes. And the report doesn’t mention how it will do this. Nor does it take into account that the gap between the library and the Arches gallery probably wont be wide enough for 2 buses and pedestrians. Or what about the multi million pound scheme to turn the banks of the Connswater into a park? The EWAY could scupper that and vice versa. No mention made in the report.

There’s also been some sinister disinformation. When these schemes were announced earlier in the year Stormont were congratulating themselves on the busway to Comber. No one corrected them and admitted that the bus would go no further than Dundonald. And I have heard from Civil Service workers that light rail was NEVER considered, it was always going to be a bus.

But overall the most worrying thing about this scheme is that no mention is made about stops. There seems to be this idea that a field 1000 yards away from a remote part of the Ballybeen estate will be a popular destination. I’m really worried that on each of the routes there will be few or no intermediate stops. There’s no point in having a rapid transport system that only goes to a park & ride.
 

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Once again Belfast gets a shitty, second rate system... what's new about that? A flock of pigeons has more imagination. I'm just glad to be able to avail of the fantastic Irish tram system which is a pleasure to use in comparison anything Translink will ever offer. (sighs sadly)
 

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If you live near enough to it! The problem with trams is they are expensive and fixed line rail serves a limited catchment area. The tram here means absolutely nothing to me as im nowhere near a line. In tougher economic times it is better to concentrate firstly on bus based solutions - it is relatively cheap and very flexible. This may seem boring but it is a crucial element of public transport in any city is to have a good reliable bus system. This is what Belfast and other cities of its size should be concentrating on for the next couple of years IMHO - everything else is just pie in the sky. When economic conditions improve and make a tram system viable, affordable and cost effective then its full steam ahead!

They will hopefully advance plans for a tram line between now and then.
 

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"When economic conditions improve and make a tram system viable, affordable and cost effective then its full steam ahead!" I believe that the building of a tram system can make this happen. All it takes is vision and imagination. Given the government's intention to borrow and spend its way out of recession, then I see no reason to delay in the construction of a decent tram system here.
 

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"When economic conditions improve and make a tram system viable, affordable and cost effective then its full steam ahead!" I believe that the building of a tram system can make this happen. All it takes is vision and imagination. Given the government's intention to borrow and spend its way out of recession, then I see no reason to delay in the construction of a decent tram system here.

Again you fail to see the bigger picture, Belfast having a tram system is not equal to preventing the probable collapse of the British banking sector. The single largest generator of wealth in the country.
 

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Unless you invest in the future, then you demonstrate a lack of confidence in that future. I see that lack of confidence being acted out in this pathetic DRD plan. Oh dear, where are our leaders of vision and imagination? Even Galway can manage to build a tram system!

It is this type of poverty of vision that lead to the Newry Bypass being constructed as a totally inadequate single carriageway, and now multi-millions are being spent in a desperate hand wringing attempt to catch up with the clever Irish, who's fantastic motorway system sadly stops at the border.

Can no-one bang their thick wooden heads together, or would it make any difference?
 

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Belfastuniguy is right tbh. I think everyone can guess how high up the priority list Belfast (or other regional cities) is for anything when it comes to the British government esspecially in these economic times. The chances of Belfast getting a tram system for the moment are less then 0 - the money is just not there - it would have to be borrowed and Gordon Brown is borrowing too much as it is! He should only be borrowing for Capital expenditure (trams, trains, roads etc) - but he is now borrowing for Current expenditure aswell:bash: It is going to take a few years at least for all this to sort itself out. We are in changed times in the world.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
The DRD are likely to build something though. If they're in such a penny pinching mood then they might as well get the best they can for there money. £100million for a few lines to park & rides will be unsuccessful. Regardless of the fact that many want to see a tram, no one wants to see the scheme fail. And the DRD seems like they could be plotting a course for failure, something Westminster will dissaprove of.

Also does anyone see the case for the WWAY flawed? I seriously doubt they could fit a tram line on the Falls, it's got way too many bottlenecks as it is.
 

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An interesting analysis of Atkins. The Consultants argued that the costs of a tram-nased system was too exopensive. I agree that the capital costs are higher, but the running costs need not be. A 100 seat bus (guided or otherwise) with one driver is much more expensive per passenger place than a tram capable of holding 250 passengers (and also one driver).

For an example of a tram system which is an unqualified success one only has to look 100 mile south to Dublin where the LUAS is undergoing expansion both in terms of route length and passenger capacity.
 

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Citybus doubts that one could fit a tramline up the Falls Road on account of bottlenecks. I beg to disagree. Look at Ghent and Antwerp in Belgium, Amsterdam in the Netherlands or Karkow in Poland for examples of where trams operate successfully in very narrow streets and negotiate bottlenecks. A comprehensive traffic management system can usually engineer out major problems of this type.

It is worth remembering that tramcars operated succesfully on the Falls Road from 1884 to 1938 when it was a lot narrower than today.
 

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Citybus doubts that one could fit a tramline up the Falls Road on account of bottlenecks. I beg to disagree. Look at Ghent and Antwerp in Belgium, Amsterdam in the Netherlands or Karkow in Poland for examples of where trams operate successfully in very narrow streets and negotiate bottlenecks. A comprehensive traffic management system can usually engineer out major problems of this type.

It is worth remembering that tramcars operated succesfully on the Falls Road from 1884 to 1938 when it was a lot narrower than today.
How many cars were there in 1884?
 

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How many cars were there in 1884?
There were few cars, and the whole point of a tram system is that it will take priority over cars, making their journeys slow and inconvenient, and thus making public transport the more desirable option. There are parts of Amsterdam where trams negotiate very narrow streets with ease. ie around Rembrandt Square. Trams are the way to go, and the dumbos of the DRD have numerous examples from which to learn how to build them and make them work.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I'm actually surprised they came up with a West Belfast line. While it's possible that you could introduce a lane for buses or trams on the Falls, certainly none of the Northern Ireland government agencies would have the somach for such an immense project.

The Falls in parts is only 2 lanes, there is presumably limited space for creating more space (like shortening pavements). The shopping high streets (particularly Andytown shops) are bad for small traffic backups.

Most of the Falls road has a bus every 5 minutes and black tacs every couple of minutes, and yet the road has loads of cars, probably more than similar working class areas. This could be because many of the estates are up steep hills far away from the main road. If this is the reason for the amount of traffic, then the govt should do something about it before they build the WWAY.
 

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More negative, let's be happy with the crumbs on our plate, drivel. If you don't ask, you don't get. This is just more "can't be done" instead of "let's find a way" like the clearly much cleverer Irish. Accepting your logic means staying in the crawler lane as Dublin leaps even further ahead. Is that what you want? Wake up, and demand the best. Labour is intent on spending its way out of recession, so now is the perfect time to be ambitious and not adopt some cringing, boo hoo attitude.
If you don't ask you don't get....

Well to be perfectly frank Northern Ireland ask WAY too much. I would love more money to ploughed into transport projects but the fact remains that we already get a vast amount of money from the UK taxpayers and many here seem content with just demanding more...do you see that as your right?

I don't I'd much rather the people of Northern Ireland start making more of a contribution to the country and less of moaning rattling of the begging bowl. I don't want my country to continue like that. Its about time we starting stumping up more to support our own country and not running to the British government and UK taxpayers of Scotland, Wales and England and demanding we get more than our fair share.

Less of the 'Dublin is TOTALLY AMAZING AND SUPERIOR' bull. Dublin may have a great tram system but the simple fact is that they could afford to built it using their own generated tax revenue which was greatly enhanced by attracting business but drastically cutting taxes especially corporation tax. THAT is how Dublin prospered, additionally supported with billions from Europe.

So unless you are willing to actually understand those basic concepts of being apart of the United Kingdom where tax revenue is limited and not a bottomless pit then there is really no point in me wasting my time with you further.

If Dublin is so superior then more there. Then over the coming years we'll see just how glorious the city is as recession starts to bite. Already public transport works are being drastically cut back.

AND THAT is the problem with the Irish economic boom is was based on the growth of a banking and financial sector which is perilously close to collapse. Best if you actually look at the bigger picture and spare me your begging bowl rhetoric.
 

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I have to disagree with Citybus. I underdstand his argument, but trams are well able to operate in very narrow streets. As well as the examples already quoted, Berne, Zurich and Lisbon spring to mind.

Snail Train's point is a good one in that one of the objectives of a tram system is to effect as modal change from cars to public transport. It wont be absolute of course, but even a 10% modal shift at peak periods would mean a major improvement in jorney times. Just think how the average commute is so much easier in the school holidays.

But the main point i would like to make is not that a rail-based system is a panacea, but that we shouod be lookig at "horses for courses" Buses will always have a part to play in Urban Transport, but trunk corridors may be better served by a modern tramway. Research has shown that motorists are much more likely to switch from a car to a tram than from their car to a bus. Even if the bus is "high quality", it does not have the same "draw" as a tram.

Experience in Dublin, Croydon, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield has borne this out.
 
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