The Chairperson introduced representatives from Translink and Weavers Cross to the meeting: Mr. L. McComb, Mr D. McAllister, Mr. D. Taggart and Ms. H. Harrison, to provide an update on the Belfast Transport Hub at Weavers Cross.
Mr. McAllister outlined the ongoing building works and progress of four major projects which were being carried out on site and stated that rail and bus operations would continue throughout the construction process until 2024, when the site would then be occupied by Translink.
He referred to recent branding and marketing activities how the transport hub had been launched as Belfast Grand Central Station, and he stated that it had been well received with positive feedback
He explained to the Committee the investment priorities for Translink between 2020 and 2030, which included transport hubs, integrated ticketing, rail infrastructure, decarbonising its fleet and all-island connectivity.
Ms. Harrison highlighted Translink’s recent success at the National Social Value awards and explained the social value activities, such as employment academies, and outlined the benefits, to date, of the Busway Bridge project.
She referred to arts and heritage activities and community engagement and plans to work with art projects in both Sandy Row and Grosvenor Road, which would allow young people in the areas to showcase what they would like to see and work to move those ideas to move forward.
Mr. McComb outlined how the project was an integral part of the newly reimagined Belfast and that, it linked to other schemes being undertaken in the city such as the new Ulster University.
Ms. Harrison pointed out how the project aligned with some key Council strategies, which included the Belfast Agenda, Bolder Vision, Resilience Strategy and the Inclusive Growth Strategy.
Mr. McComb concluded the presentation with an overview of the Weavers Cross Masterplan and outlined the benefits of the project. He referred to it being the main transport hub for all of Northern Ireland with strong political and community support and exemplary social, economic and environmental credentials.
In response to a question from a Member regarding the planting of trees to improve air quality in the area, Mr. McAllister stated that diesel engines were being phased out over the following ten years in favour of electric and hybrid alternatives, in both buses and trains. He added that the building would draw all of its power efficiently using green energy forms. Ms. Harrison added that tree planting and landscape works had been designed in detail and would be in place prior to or immediately after the opening of the hub.
A number of Members expressed concern regarding displacement of traffic, particularly with regard to Sandy Row. Mr. McAllister responded by stating that the design of the new bus yard had taken into account 2000 additional passenger journeys per day, accounting for those who would previously have used a diesel or petrol car and entering the city centre and that work was being undertaken and would report those calculations back to the Committee in due course.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation for their informative presentation and the Committee noted the update.