BELFAST CHAMBER ENCOURAGES MINISTER TO ‘THINK BIG’ TO MAKE BELFAST MOVE BETTER

Belfast Chamber has encouraged the new Minister for Infrastructure to “think big” about connectivity in and to the capital city.

The organisation which represents over 600 businesses in Belfast has encouraged the Minister and her Executive colleagues to work with Belfast City Council and the city’s business community to embark on an ambitious investment programme aimed at transforming the city’s economy and improving the quality of life for its citizens.

In a new policy paper entitled “Making Belfast Move Better”, Belfast Chamber outlines a blueprint for making Belfast a more vibrant, accessible and sustainable city. As well as encouraging the Infrastructure Minister to invest in public transportation, the cycling network and roads improvements in the city, Belfast Chamber have also encouraged the Minister to follow the UK Government’s example of backing HS2 and examine the feasibility of developing a high speed rail connection between Belfast and Dublin.

Other proposals made by Belfast Chamber include:

  • a step change in public transportation with rapid deployment of phase 2 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.

Commenting at the launch of the policy paper, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “Improving how people get into, out of and around our city is crucial to achieving Belfast Chamber’s 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.

With an Executive back in place, Belfast Chamber encourages Ministers to ’think big’ and see investing in the full range of Belfast’s transport infrastructure as essential for the future growth of the city and the economic success of the whole region. Whether it’s public transport, pedestrian friendly streets, an improved cycling network or better roads, building up Belfast’s infrastructure will improve our economy and make life better for cities and communities across the city”.

Belfast Chamber have also given their support to the development of a new high-speed rail link between Belfast and Dublin. Simon Hamilton added, “It is more important than ever that Belfast maintain and international and open outlook. That means improving connectivity to other markets. There has been much focus recently on the UK Government’s decision to continue with the HS2 project. Belfast Chamber believes that now is the right time to investigate the potential for a high-speed rail link between Belfast and Dublin. Improving the connection between the two biggest cities on the island will only bring benefits to both economies and enhance the attractiveness of the Belfast-Dublin corridor to even more investment. We would implore the Executive to work with the incoming Irish government to invest in the existing service whilst examining a new high-speed line”.

Concluding, Simon Hamilton said, “Belfast Chamber is committed to transforming how we move around our city. Making moving about easier for everyone, especially pedestrians and cyclists, linking communities and increasing residential property in the city centre, is good for the quality of life of people in Belfast and will boost our economy. Striking a balance between making the changes to connectivity that our city needs and doing so in a gradual, investment first way is crucial. Business is a crucial stakeholder in our city – it creates jobs, invests in the future and acts as guardians of central Belfast. Belfast needs a thriving business community and an understanding of how the city’s economy functions should underpin any policy decisions in this important area”.