Speaking after the meeting, Naomi Long said: “A lot of hard work has gone into developing and maintaining the Comber Greenway as an off-road walking and cycling route over recent years and it is now a well-used and highly valued resource for local people. Used both for leisure walking and cycling and for commuting, it is particularly popular with young families who can cycle safely away from other traffic and its loss would be a significant blow to those who use it, many of whom have limited access to alternative safe outdoor space.
“The E-WAY would undoubtedly make it quicker for people from commuter zones beyond Belfast to reach the city centre; however, it does not pass through the main commercial and residential areas of East Belfast currently served by the Metro. Given that it is anticipated that around 80% of people who will use it will switch from other public transport, there are real concerns that it could undermine the viability of the existing bus service along the Upper Newtownards Road.
“I also raised a number of other concerns with the Minister, including the route proposed for the E-WAY below the Holywood Arches, which could potentially have a significant impact on a number of community facilities, such as the Library, Ballymacarrett Recreation Centre and the adjacent play park, and Carew Family Centre.
“Using the rail corridor may be the cheapest and simplest option; however, I am not convinced that it will be best for the environment or for diversification of sustainable transport options within the City. At the very least, I want to ensure that there is full public consultation about the proposal at this stage, as it has implications for a large number of people which need to be fully considered and I would hope to have further discussions with the Minister in due course.”