News that a vital road improvement scheme in the centre of Belfast has been put on hold following the Brexit vote is bad news for transport operators and the economy, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
FTA was the only transport industry representative to give evidence at last year’s Public Inquiry into the planned £180m development of York Street Interchange. The Association said the work would make significant improvements to traffic flow, journey time reliability and emissions.
Around 40% of the funding for the project was set to come from the EU and reports say Transport NI has written to those tendering for the work – which was due to start in autumn 2017 – to say the project is now on hold.
Seamus Leheny, FTA’s Northern Ireland Manager, said: “FTA members will be bitterly disappointed if the scheme does not go ahead as planned. Commercial vehicle operators from right across the country consistently state that the M1, M2, Westlink road corridor is the most problematic and costly for their vehicles to navigate.
“Commercial vehicle operators contribute significant revenue to the Government through fuel duty, vehicle ownership tax and road user levy so it is reasonable for them to expect a road infrastructure that supports their industry.”
York Street Interchange handles 100,000 vehicles a day and is a vital part of Northern Ireland’s strategic road network, connecting all major traffic flows in the area.
A recent assessment by Belfast City Council of air quality improvements following the upgrading of the junction gave positive results. And FTA says operators would benefit from considerable savings with improved journey times – the average cost of operating a 44 tonne HGV is £1 per minute so any time spent waiting in traffic is costly.