City Centre Ring Road Southern Section, Belfast
("Shaftesbury Link")

 

Status
Construction scheme (future)
Where
Dual-two-lane road link between Dublin Road and Cromac Street/Ormeau Road, Belfast as part of the planned Belfast Inner Ring
Total Length
0.4km / 0.24 miles
Dates

Belfast Inner Ring first proposed late 1960s

Bankmore Link proposed in Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan - 2005
Adopted as an element of "Belfast on the Move" scheme - 2010
DRD admit that the scheme will not be on the scale proposed in BRTP in 2005 - Spring 2015

Construction on the long finger (as of Jun 2015)

Cost
£7.8m (as of 2008) for Bankmore Link
Approx £20m (as of 2011) for one-way Gyratory
Photos
See below.
See Also

Official web site for Belfast On the Move - DRD
Belfast Rapid Transit System - on this site
1. Streets Ahead Enabling Measures Phase 1 - on this site
2. Sustainable Transport Enabling Measures - on this site
3. Rapid Transit Enabling Measures - on this site
5. Streets Ahead Enabling Measures Phase 2 - on this site
6. Transforming the City Centre Ring Road - on this site

Click here to jump straight down to updates for this scheme.

Belfast is currently undertaking a long-term scheme to redirect general traffic flows out of Belfast city centre, in order to permit a greater role for buses, rapid transit, pedestrians and cycling. Called Belfast on the Move, the work is being carried out in six phases, of which this scheme is the fourth (Phase 1 was completed in 2011 - see links above):

  1. Streets Ahead Enabling Measures Phase 1
  2. Sustainable Transport Enabling Measures (STEM)
  3. Rapid Transit Enabling Measures
  4. City Centre Ring Road Southern Section
  5. Streets Ahead Enabling Measures Phase 2
  6. Transforming the City Centre Ring Road
The Belfast Inner Ring road was originally proposed in the 1960s. The northern section (consisting of College Avenue, Millfield, Carrick Hill, Frederick Street and Dunbar Link) was constructed during the 1970s and 1980s. The southern section, where land acquisition was a major problem, was never built. Instead, the Inner Road has been routed along existing streets (Cromac Street, Bruce Street, Hope Street and Durham Street). The one gap is the stretch between Bruce Street and Cromac Street where there is no convenient road link.

The ultimate purpose of this scheme is to get traffic out of the City Centre in order to provide more space for buses/cycles/pedestrians. This will displace a lot of traffic, so it is essential to provide this missing link to provide an alternative route away from City Hall. How exactly the link will be provided is still uncertain:

Route and Design

The plan since the late 1960s has been to build this stretch as a two-lane dual-carriageway, and the land has been kept free of development for around 40 years. Thus anyone who knows Ormeau Avenue knows that the area on the south side of the road is essentially wasteland, given over to car parks and bare concrete. This is very obvious in the aerial view below, which shows the proposed route of the dual-carriageway in red.

View in a larger map

In recent years (ie since 2009) there seems to have been an acceptance within Roads Service that a conventional dual-two lane road here might not be acceptable (see update below in June 2012) as it will add another level of severance to the southern part of the city centre, the only part of the city centre not cut off from its hinterland by major roads. It is possible, therefore, that TransportNI may alter the plan to a one-way gyratory system based on the existing streets, ie with much less new road.

The map below shows one way that this could be achieved, although this is not an official Roads Service proposal. Eastbound traffic would follow the blue route, while westbound traffic would follow the green route.

View in a larger map

Updates

24 Sep 2016: In their Spring 2016 council report to Belfast City Council, TransportNI briefly but quite usefully mentioned this scheme. The first point is that they refer to it as "Shaftsbury Link" (sic), though the description shows that it is clearly a reference to the City Centre Ring Road south section. This name is slightly strange as the proposed road doesn't really go near Shaftesbury Square, but at least the name is a little less brutal-sounding than "City Centre Ring Road", which may be the intention behind this label. Although, that said, about ten years ago it was called "Bankmore Link" which was also a nice name. The document goes on to say "This scheme will be much reduced in scale from that proposed in the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan (BMTP). It will focus on the needs of public transport, pedestrians and cyclists, as well as general traffic, and take cognisance of potential redevelopment opportunities." The comment about scale is in keeping with the thinking that seems to have taken place over the past few years as recorded in previous updates below, and means that the new road is very unlikely to be another urban dual-carriageway but more likely a smaller scale road, perhaps even a gyratory along existing streets as discussed above. It goes on to say "An acceptable road ‘footprint’ would identify a number of viable and attractive sites for redevelopment to the south of the office district, between Sandy Row and Cromac St, and help to remove the blight that this area has suffered for many years." This implies that one of the aims of the scheme would be to finally release the land that has sat undeveloped now for half a century because of the road protection corridor that has existed since the late 1960s. Some closure on this would be most welcome for the streetscape in this part of the city.

8 Jun 2015: It has now been over two years since the previous update. In November 2014, Belfast City Council published their City Centre Regeneration Strategy and Investment Plan which sets out the city's aspirations as the council takes on more responsibility for planning and regeneration. It supports the provision of the City Centre Ring Road Southern Section (on pages 53 and 72) for a number of reasons, including "greater network simplicity and reduced traffic congestion within the core area" and the removal of "blight" from the road protection corridor that has existed here for decades and has led to dereliction and empty land. It does not envision it as the conventional dual-carriageway that was favoured by the DRD back in 2005. It says: "The wide road reservation would allow the South Link to be completed as a grand tree-lined boulevard with a comfortable pedestrian provision, potentially including a linear open space. Development sites would be opened up and the street could be properly framed with buildings instead of car parks. Devoting special attention to appropriately locating and designing pedestrian crossing points would enhance permeability between residential neighbourhoods and the city centre." The DRD itself seems to have come to a similar view, ie that a conventional dual-carriageway would no longer be acceptable in this location. In the Spring report to Belfast City Council, just published, the DRD says (page 20) "This scheme will be much reduced in scale from that proposed in the [2005] Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan (BMTP). It will focus on the needs of public transport, pedestrians and cyclists, as well as general traffic, and take cognisance of potential redevelopment opportunities. An acceptable road ‘footprint’ would identify a number of viable and attractive sites for redevelopment to the south of the office district, between Sandy Row and Cromac St, and help to remove the blight that this area has suffered for many years." So it is safe to conclude that we are no longer looking at the type of road pictured in the 2008 update below, but instead something smaller in scale, most likely a gyratory system along the existing streets. It is nice to see the council, those interested in regeneration and the DRD displaying harmony on an issue like this.

28 Apr 2013: In my previous update I outlined how the fate of this project is intimately tied in with the Streets Ahead Enabling Measures Phase II scheme, which will see all vehicles except Rapid Transit removed from Royal Avenue and Donegall Square North. Since the DSD Minister announced last week that all work on that project was being suspended indefinitely, it now seems unlikely that there will be any need to progress the City Centre Ring Road Southern Section in the foreseeable future.

12 Dec 2012: It now seems that the shape of this project will hinge on the outcome of the related Streets Ahead Enabling Measures Phase II scheme. That scheme will see road space taken away from general traffic on Donegall Square, ie around City Hall. Since this route carries a lot of traffic, there will have to be an alternative route south of the city centre as existing streets could not cope with this amount of displaced traffic. The map above shows a current proposal for a one-way gyratory along existing streets on Ormeau Avenue and Bankmore Street. It now seems that the DRD are only prepared to implement this version of the plan if Streets Ahead Enabling Measures Phase II does NOT remove all traffic from behind City Hall. If it does, then the larger-scale scheme proposed in 2008 will be back on the agenda. It is important, therefore, that the two schemes are seen as a pair with trade-offs between them. The folks over at Forum for Alternative Belfast have been working with DRD on the proposals for this route.

26 Jun 2012: It has been over three years since the last update, and since then it seems that Roads Service have moved away from the design proposed in 2008 (see previous update). The report into the PLACE summer school in August 2011 makes these comments: "A dual carriageway to full standards and right turning provisions was also suggested, however this option had little consideration for land use and surrounding communities admitted Stephen. He says that DRD now know that this would not be acceptable and that a much better design would be required for the area." It seems that Roads Service also considered two alternatives to the straight-forward Bankmore Link: (1) Upgrading the existing junctions to allow more traffic throughput along existing streets and (2) a one-way gyratory along Ormeau Avenue (eastbound) and Bankmore Street (westbound) as outlined on the map above. At this point, therefore, it seems that it is the one-way gyratory that is most likely to be implemented, at an estimated cost of £20m. This link is required before Phase 5 of the "Belfast on the Move" scheme can take place, ie the removal of all general traffic from in front of and behind City Hall. However at this point it is in the future and there are no firm plans to proceed.

9 Jan 2009: Roads Service issued a leaflet about this proposal in November 2008. The leaflet reaffirms sets out plans for the City Centre Ring Road in general, before commenting on this particular road link. It now seems that the new road link will be a dual-carriageway with two lanes in each direction. An artists impression was included (see below) which suggests that there will be no dedicated left-turn filter lanes on the main road. Although these help traffic flow, they have been criticised for making roads in the city centre unnecessarily wide and having poor facilities for pedestrian crossings. Roads Service also stress that "Completing the scheme is considered fundamental to achieving the public realm pedestrianisation project, traffic reduction and capacity objectives for the city centre". Implementation is currently anticipated "within ten years".

Artists's impression of Bankmore Link

Artist's impression of the proposed Bankmore Link as of 2008 (looking east from the back of the Dublin Road cinema with the Gasworks on Ormeau Road visible in the distance). As of 2012, this design is not likely to be built. Taken from Roads Service leaflet issued in November 2008.