Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Westlink: Solution or Problem?

The Westlink (part of the original Belfast Urban Motorway which never was) attracts a wide range of opinion from experts examining the political, engineering and social impact and residents to whom the road is part of everyday life. There is no question that the road is a key route in modern Belfast, but could it have been implemented differently? BBC Radio Ulster's 'The Gathering' (available on iPlayer) examines some of these issues...

How the Belfast Urban Motorway system could have appeared.
In this image you can see the Ormeau Road and the Gasworks.

The Gathering: Episode Three (31 July 2011)
Belfast Urban Motorway 
As the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Westlink passes, John Bennett considers the controversial plans for the Belfast Urban Motorway, and why it never came to fruition.
Three decades ago when the West Link was opened the motorists of Belfast were hoping that the endless queues and jams were at an end. The idea of joining the two main motorways had been part of a much bigger plan called the Belfast Urban Motorway - a six lane, stilt-borne thoroughfare which was to encircle the city and continue across Belfast Lough via a brand new bridge. Alas it never happened! The traffic continued to build up - the jams increased. 
The onset of The Troubles added to the problems and the newly constructed carriageway became a concrete dividing line between communities. 
This week we examine the political, engineering and social problems which have beset the scheme since its inception and ask if the planners could have done better.

The Westlink ('canyon section') as it appears today.
Photo by Wesley Johnston from

The episode is available on iPlayer for 3 more days until Sunday 7th August. Definitely worth a listen!

Click Here for the BBC iPlayer page to listen. (Length: 25 Mintues)

Also available on iPlayer is a clip from 'Tomorrow's Road' (first broadcast in 1972) which outlined some of the construction challenges with the Belfast Urban Motorway.

Click Here for the BBC iPlayer page to listen. (Length: 2 Minutes)

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