06 January 2006

Talks over peaceline gate operations amid Westlink chaos


Concerns have been raised that lives could be lost over ambulance and emergency services getting across the city with the forthcoming roadworks and restrictions on the Westlink.
A spokesperson for the Ambulance Service today confirmed that the issue of how ambulances would get in and out of North Belfast when the station at Broadway is covering colleagues in Ardoyne are currently under discussion.
Closures of the peaceline gates at Agnes Street, Northumberland Street and Townsend Street at teatime could mean a struggle for services to make their way across the city particularly during rush hour or at weekends when the Westlink is due to close altogether. In Belfast there are four ambulance stations covering North, south, east and west of the city. Although Ardoyne is dedicated to dealing with emergencies in the north of the city, on occasion, ambulances from the west are needed to provide cover and answer emergencies in case of sickness or absence of Ardoyne staff.
With all routes surrounding the Westlink predicted to become busier, the fear is that the speed in which emergencies can be reached will further decrease.
Fears that traffic chaos will prevent people from attending the RVH for appointments were also addressed yesterday when plans to reduce traffic congestion on the site were released.
The hospital has a staff of almost 7,000, a large number of whom live in North Belfast, and is likely to be one of the organisations most affected by the roadworks.
In an attempt to relieve some of the pressure that will be put on the the Westlink, staff are being encouraged to car share, take the bus or use new facilities for cyclists which are due to be opened in a few weeks time.
Patients and visitors are being asked to consider alternatives to bringing their cars on site. Some outpatient clinics may also be relocated.
A spokesperson for the Ambulance Service said: “The Ambulance Service is aware of the planned roadworks on the Westlink and the potential impact on our service.
“We are currently engaged with the relevant Department and contractors involved in the scheme.
“It is our intention to continue to operate from the ambulance station based in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital.
“However, should the situation demand, we will examine all possibilities that will ensure a high standard of service is maintained throughout this period of major disruption, including other temporary dispatch points in the affected areas.”

Journalist:: Evan Short

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