The chief executive of the Roads Service has written to the noble Lord in response to this Question. The text of the letter is as follows:
“The Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan (BMTP) was published in November 2004 and takes forward the strategic initiatives of the Regional Transportation Strategy (RTS) for Northern Ireland which was accepted by the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2002. The BMTP sets out transport proposals for the Belfast Metropolitan Area to be implemented or commenced by 2015 and also supports the development proposals contained in the draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) published by the Department of the Environment (DoE) in 2004.
Within the Transport Plan there is a high priority given to public transport, walking and cycling, as large urban areas like the Belfast Metropolitan Area offer the best opportunities to reduce reliance on the private car. Measures to improve rail frequencies and bus services, effective parking controls, better walking and cycling networks and options for rapid transit should all help in this regard. The BMTP sets out a range of proposals to tackle these problems, under the headings of Walking and Cycling, Public Transport, Highway Network and Management. Key features include: improvements in facilities for walking and cycling; step-change in quality of public transport provision, including an ambitious Park and Ride programme, Quality Bus Corridor programme, improvements to rail services and the commencement of a Rapid Transit network; Highway improvements focused on improving the efficiency and safety of the main strategic network; Better management of the transport systems through parking controls, the application of technology; and Measures to change travel attitudes.
Whilst a modal shift from private car to more sustainable modes of travel is unlikely to take effect until towards the end of the Plan period, there are a number of road improvement schemes identified in the Transport Plan that are necessary to remove existing bottlenecks and improve traffic flows on the road network. These include: Ml/Westlink; A55 Outer Ring Road; A2 Sydenham Bypass; M2 widening between Sandyknowes and Greencastle; and completion of south section of the City Centre Ring Road (Bankmore Link).
As you may be aware, the highest profile scheme, the Ml/Westlink/M2 project, is under way and programmed for completion by Spring 2009. This will significantly improve traffic flows on the main strategic route connecting the Ml and M2 motorways through Belfast. As outlined above, road improvement schemes are not the only element of the Plan that will help to improve traffic flows. This week the Department took over responsibility for the enforcement of parking offences in NI and this will also make a contribution to improved traffic flows on Belfast's local road network.
Further details of the proposals in the Transport Plan can be obtained from the BMTP website https://pronet.wsatkins.co.uk/bmtp/. A copy of the BMTP Transport Plan is also available in the House Libraries”.
The Department for Regional Development is currently in the process of appointing consultants to carry out economic appraisals of both EWAY, operating between Dundonald and Belfast city centre, and CITI-route, linking Belfast city centre and Belfast City Airport through the Titanic Quarter of the Harbour Estate in the Bangor Corridor, as pilot rapid transit routes.