The much vaunted Westlink improvements, which have caused disruption on Belfast’s roads since 2006, opened a few weeks ago. Sort of. An underpass now takes motorists destined for the M1 motorway beneath the Broadway Roundabout, the largest junction which formerly impeded traffic leaving Belfast by this route. This forms the most crucial part of a scheme which is designed to allow traffic to flow more freely in and out of the city.
Even allowing for cones which are still blocking some lanes and the ongoing pootering about from various workers, I am ready to officially declare the results – SHITE. Don’t get me wrong, I have used the Westlink over the last fortnight, whereas once I avoided it like the plague, despite it being much the most direct route home. But this is July. The schools are off, people are still away on their holidays and already the road is beginning to wheeze and struggle with the volume of traffic. Several points of congestion are building up. What will it be like come a rainy day in October?
No doubt if the improvements hadn’t taken place the Westlink would have remained even less navigable. But I can reveal now, to all those who may be in doubt, that it will still be a nightmare. As usual these alterations are too little too late. The roads are constantly five years behind the standard they need to be for the traffic which uses them. Belfast remains a city with awful road infrastructure and no viable alternative in terms of public transport.