The first stages of investment in the £90m Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme have delivered early results, with the city’s bus services carrying 85,000 more passengers in 2015-16.
This growth, while small, contrasts with declines of about 3% in bus usage in London and English metropolitan areas during the same year.
A Metro branded bus in action
The BRT scheme is creating a bus priority corridor through the city centre and Titanic Quarter. At its eastern end is the 520-space Dundonald park and ride facility, opened in December 2014. Buses will continue to Colin, in the west.
The infrastructure works are due to be completed in 2018 but bus lanes have already been installed in several locations along with improvements such as LED street lighting, Puffin crossings and resurfacing of carriageways and footways.
The latest bus lanes, in Upper Newtownards Road, came into operation last week.
Translink, Northern Ireland’s state-owned rail and bus company, has a Metro division and brand for Belfast’s buses. Damien Bannon, Metro area manager, said its passenger journeys had reached 26.4 million in 2015-16.
‘A number of our Metro corridors have contributed significantly to this growth. For example the Metro 4 service, which operates via East Belfast, experienced growth of 5.8%,’ he said.
Mr Bannon attributed the service’s growth to the bus priority lanes that opened during the year and the effect of the Dundonald park and ride on travel habits.
Other factors behind Metro’s passenger growth included promotional campaigns and a real-time journey planner app. Metro introduced on-board audio-visual announcements on its entire fleet in March.