How Belfast’s new Grand Central Station will transform public …

Construction work on a new £200 million transport hub for Belfast is entering its final phases and once operational, it's set to transform Northern Ireland's public transport network.

The new bus and rail centre, to be known as Belfast Grand Central Station, will be the largest integrated transport facility on the island of Ireland and one of the biggest in the UK, when its opening begins in late 2024.

Situated on Translink[1] property near the current Europa Buscentre and Great Victoria Street train station, the new transport hub will be around 10 times the size once complete and cater for up to 20 million passenger journeys a year.

The number of rail platforms will double from four to eight while the number of bus stands will increase to 26 as well as housing facilities for bicycles and taxis.

Belfast Grand Central Station will also become the new home for the cross-border Enterprise railway service to and from Dublin, which will relocate from its current base at nearby Lanyon Place.

Plans are also afoot to introduce an hourly train service between the two capital cities in the future and shorter journey times.

Some of the eight new platforms and railway lines at Belfast Grand Central Station Some of the eight new platforms and railway lines at Belfast Grand Central Station

Translink’s chief executive Chris Conway says the multi-million pound project will bring significant benefits to public transport in Northern Ireland as it will also involve improving infrastructure on the rail network.

Mr Conway added: "As well as delivering a new station and additional rail platforms, we're realigning a lot of the railway tracks between here and Adelaide and around to Lanyon Place. We're also investing in a new digital signalling system, which will be controlled at Lanyon Place.

"That will allow for a lot more frequency of trains coming into the station, be able to maximise the utilisation of all the platforms and give us more capacity.

"We've started some early feasibility work too looking at how we would connect to Belfast International Airport[4] and improve the hub at Sydenham for the City Airport as well.

"Belfast Grand Central Station is an enabler for a lot of that work and will allow us to start investing further and wider in our public transport network."

A model of Belfast Grand Central Station A model of Belfast Grand Central Station

Transformation work at the site began in 2020 and it's due to be completed by the final quarter of 2024 with the full project completed by the following year. Currently, the main station building is being glazed and the internal fit out has started.

The bus stands and train station platforms are being constructed while the first sections of track have been laid. In August, a new busway overbridge opened, marking a further major construction milestone, and around 400 bus services will travel across it on a daily basis once the new hub opens.

Translink says several weeks of disruption to train services is expected next year as the new station is linked to the current rail network.

Construction work underway at Belfast Grand Central Station Construction work underway at Belfast Grand Central Station

Philip Brown, Head of Major Projects at Translink[5], added: "There will be some changes and transitions as we get towards the opening of the main station.

"With any significant infrastructure project there will be an element of disruption so coming into next summer we will be having a blockade of the railway line where some services will not be operating at all times.

"We will be issuing a lot of public information in advance in order to try and minimise disruption and running substitution services to allow commuters to continue to travel."

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As well as transforming Northern Ireland's public transport network, the development of Belfast Grand Central Station will also breathe new life in an often forgotten corner of Belfast.

The new station is located at the heart of a new ‘Weavers Cross’ city neighbourhood bringing circa 1.3 million square feet of mixed-use space to a strategic location in the city centre.

The full site will include office, residential, student housing, retail and leisure space, as well as Saltwater Square, a new public realm space for outdoor performances and community events.

(L-R) Duncan McAllister, Chris Conway and Philip Brown from Translink at Belfast Grand Central Station (L-R) Duncan McAllister, Chris Conway and Philip Brown from Translink at Belfast Grand Central Station

Duncan McAllister, Head of Belfast Grand Central Station and Weavers Cross Programme, said this re-development will happen over the next 10 to 15 years once the new transport hub is complete.

He added: “There's huge levels of interest from Queen's and Ulster universities for student accommodation. There's high interest too from life science companies for research and development because we're in a prime position between two hospitals and two universities.

“We're also sandwiched between two of the lowest economic wards in Northern Ireland, the Grosvenor Road and Sandy Row, so this will really help in terms of regenerating those areas too.”

Video by Belfast Live videographer Harry Bateman.

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