Green light for new 400-space park and ride facility and upgrades at Ballymena Bus & Rail Centre
A new 400-space park and ride facility at Ballymena Bus and Rail Centre was approved by Mid and East Antrim councillors at a meeting on Thursday.
The development which is expected to be completed early in 2024 was given the go-ahead by the council’s Planning Committee.
It will supplement the facility already operational at Princes Street.
Aidan Stott, Translink Project Manager, told the meeting that there are 770,000 passengers through Ballymena Bus and Rail Centre each year and it is the ninth busiest in the network.
He reported “strong growth” prior to the Covid pandemic and added that numbers are returning.
The new facility will be located on an overgrown site adjacent to the bus and rail centre and Beechfield Close with access to be improved at Galgorm Road. DfI Roads has recommended a number of planning conditions.
A new “puffin” crossing is to be installed near the junction.
A report to councillors stated: “It would be difficult to find a more appropriate location within Ballymena.”
It also says that it is “reasonable to assume that such a facility will promote more sustainable travel rather than create additional congestion.
“The facility has the potential to ease congestion both in Ballymena and at other provincial hubs.
“The existing Park and Ride facility in Ballymena is outdated and regularly cannot accommodate all who wish to use it. The proposed facility will solve this problem and ease local congestion.
It is also noted that no objections have been received from neighbours and “the use of intelligent lighting, CCTV and high quality landscaping will ensure that the proposed facility is a good neighbour”.
Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan commented that if bus services from outlying villages and towns were better co-oordinated with trains, it would not be necessary to have “such a large facility”.
Translink said that when Park and Ride facilities are being established, they are “future-proofed” to provide flexibility for extra spaces when they are required.
“Looking at increased bus services and co-ordinating is something that we do on a regular basis. On this particular line, we are looking at increased capacity and frequency of trains as well as some very important local improvements,” said Mr Stott.
He noted that an upgrade of the level crossing at Cullybackey has been commissioned by December2023.
Committee Chair Ballymena councillor Alderman Audrey Wales said: “Anyone who has tried to use Ballymena Park and Ride will know how necessary it is.
She also quipped: “For somebody who uses the Park and Ride regularly and finds is difficult to get a parking space, please hurry up and get it built.”
Bannside DUP Councillor Tom Gordon said:
“This is a much-needed facility here in Ballymena. The existing Park and Ride is much too small. It is over capacity. It is a great project. It is as close to the railway station as possible and makes it very convenient for motorists.”
Cllr Gordon said that he welcomed the application and that he was happy to propose the planners’ recommendation for approval. His proposal was seconded by Bannside TUV councillor Alderman Stewart McDonald.
A Translink spokesperson said: “The enhanced Park and Ride at Ballymena Bus and Rail Centre has received planning approval from Mid and East Antrim Council.
“The extension to our Park and Ride will provide more than 400 additional spaces. The project will include accessible parking and cycle parking, with access on Galgorm Road.
“We anticipate the project being completed in the first quarter of 2024.”