Belfast Rapid Transit - introduction

An introduction to Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) including the aims of the project, the characteristics of BRT and useful links to related content.

What is Belfast Rapid Transit?

Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) is an innovative and ambitious project that will create a new and dynamic public transport system for Belfast. BRT will offer a high quality service providing people with better access to jobs, hospitals, shops, schools, colleges, and entertainment.

Artists impression of Van Hool BRT vehicle
The BRT system will use high quality rapid transit vehicles which will provide a modern, comfortable environment for passengers in terms of space, security and on-board information. The BRT system will also incorporate high quality halts with easy access to vehicles, real time information systems for easier journey planning and off-vehicle ticketing to speed up the boarding process. The speed, reliability and comfort of the BRT services will provide an attractive alternative to private car use.

BRT is scheduled to become operational in September 2018.

The main characteristics of the BRT system, including a short video of the type of vehicle which will operate on BRT, and the benefits it will bring are outlined in this short interactive document.


BRT network

The first phase of the BRT network, which is currently being implemented, will link East Belfast, West Belfast and Titanic Quarter via the city centre (see BRT Route Plan). 

It is the intention to extend the BRT network to other areas of Belfast, subject to the success of phase 1 and the availability of funding. The Department is already engaging with those responsible for proposed developments on potential routes outside the current network to ensure as far as possible that the future provision of BRT to key areas is not prejudiced.

Characteristics of BRT

There are a number of key principles underlying the development of the characteristics of BRT:

  • a strong brand image that delivers a clear identity for the system
  • high quality in all aspects of the system, including the fixed infrastructure, vehicles, operations and customer services
  • high standards of reliability with punctual service operation and predictable journey times
  • integration with other modes of transport including bus, rail and taxi services, the private car, cycling and walking
  • delivery of a complete system


BRT will provide fast and reliable services connecting East and West Belfast, Titanic Quarter and key locations of economic and social activity in the city centre and along the BRT corridors. 

Subject to demand, services will operate between 5:30 am and 11:30 pm on weekdays. At the weekend, services will start slightly later in the morning and potentially operate later at night. Peak-time services will operate at maximum intervals of 8 minutes. Early morning and late evening services will operate at intervals of around 25 minutes. Services will be tailored to meet times of peak demand such as major sporting or entertainment events.

BRT will replace most of the main Metro services on the routes that it serves: Metro 4 in East Belfast and Metro 10 in West Belfast. Some Metro services, which serve destinations off the BRT routes, will continue to use parts of the BRT routes and therefore benefit from the increased bus priority.

When BRT comes into operation feeder and/or complementary services will be provided with appropriate interchange facilities and co-ordinated timetables. The interchange facilities will be provided at Dundonald Park & Ride in the East and at Colin Town Centre Transport Hub in the West.

Ulsterbus services will continue to operate on the BRT corridors. They will benefit from the increased bus priority on the routes and therefore experience shorter, more reliable journey times.


On 26 November the then Minister, Michelle McIlveen MLA, announced that the contract for the supply of a fleet of 30 BRT vehicles has been awarded to Belgium based company Van Hool, supported locally by Road Trucks Limited of Larne.

The BRT vehicles will be 18 metre articulated buses with a capacity of around 100 people. These articulated vehicles provide a greater capacity than that provided by current double deck buses. Articulated vehicles are widely accepted as the vehicle of choice for bus-based rapid transit systems worldwide.

Artists impression of the front of a Van Hool BRT vehicle
The vehicles will be a key part of the BRT system image. They will have a strong identity and high quality appearance that is easily distinguishable from other public transport vehicles.

The BRT vehicles will provide a high quality environment for passengers in terms of comfort, space, security and on-board information.

Typical interior of a Van Hool vehicle
They will provide accessible easy boarding for people with reduced mobility and parents with pushchairs as well as a mix of standing and seating areas with good legroom. They will have 3 sets of double doors and good circulation room to enable rapid boarding and alighting, minimising the time spent at halts and therefore reducing journey times.


Typical information screen in a Van Hool vehicle





The vehicle interiors will be constructed using high quality materials and the engines will utilise the latest hybrid diesel/electric technologies emitting low noise, low vibration and low levels of pollutants. BRT vehicles will have onboard information screens providing real time journey information and audio visual next halt and destination announcements. Free on-board Wi-Fi will also be provided.

The BRT vehicles will be equipped with CCTV for both passenger and driver safety.

Halts and interchanges

The halts will also form a key part of the BRT system image and will be distinct and of a high quality. The halts will provide shelter, security and travel information as well as enabling quick and easy access to the vehicles.

An example of a Belfast Rapid Transit halt
An example of a Belfast Rapid Transit halt
In order to provide shorter, more reliable journey times, BRT halts will be at a target minimum distance of 400 metres apart. Where there are key locations of high demand, halts will be closer together. This means that the number of existing bus stops on the routes will be reduced by about a third.

Larger interchange facilities will be provided at Dundonald Park & Ride in the East and at the Colin Town Centre Transport Hub in the West.

The interchange facilities will enable easy and convenient interchange between private car, feeder services and BRT services. Cycle parking will be provided at these facilities and at other halts along the routes, where appropriate.

Dundonald Park & Ride opened on 1 December 2014 and provides 520 spaces. Prior to BRT becoming operational in 2018, it is being served by a dedicated limited stop Metro 4X service during peak hours and existing Ulsterbus services outside peak hours.

Running ways

The running ways or lanes which the BRT vehicles will use will consist of both dedicated bus lanes and mixed traffic lanes. Where BRT operates on bus lanes these will also be available for use by other bus services, cyclists, motorcyclists, permitted taxis and emergency vehicles. Where BRT operates on mixed traffic lanes these will be available for use by all traffic.

The majority of the bus lanes introduced on the routes prior to BRT becoming operational in 2018 will operate during peak hours only.  When BRT becomes operational it is intended that all the bus lanes on the BRT routes will operate from 7am to 7pm, with relaxations for deliveries, servicing, etc.

Belfast Rapid Transit in the city centre
Belfast Rapid Transit in the city centre
In order to provide priority and journey time reliability for BRT vehicles it will be necessary to remove and/or relocate on-street parking that affects the BRT bus lanes. Existing lay-by parking will generally be retained and short-term parking restrictions will be introduced to discourage all day parking and encourage the turnover of parking spaces. There will be strict enforcement of parking and driving offences in the running ways to ensure journey time reliability for the BRT system.

Optimum priority will be given to BRT vehicles at signalised junctions to ensure reliable journey times. Turning movements will be banned at a small number of locations to assist the flow of traffic along the BRT corridors. BRT bus lanes will generally be 3 metres wide and will be resurfaced over the majority of the route to ensure a high ride quality. Footways will also be reconstructed to improve the surface for pedestrians. Improvements will be made to surface drainage systems with more extensive use of side inlet gullies to further enhance ride quality, reduce road noise and prevent damage to the ironwork.

Environmentally friendly LED street lighting will be installed along the majority of the route. This will offer energy savings of over 30% as well as lower maintenance costs. LED lighting technology will also be used in traffic signal equipment and there will be improvements to pedestrian crossing facilities along the BRT corridors.

There will be a noticeable impact on the general traffic that uses the BRT corridors, particularly as the system gets established. The impact will reduce as more people realise the benefits of using BRT. It is acknowledged that there is a need for many people to continue using their cars and for commercial traffic to be able to move about the city. It is therefore the aim to deliver an appropriate balance between the competing demands.

The bus lanes on which BRT will operate will be strictly enforced by way of static cameras and mobile detection units. Unauthorised vehicles using the bus lanes during the bus lane operating hours will be subject to a fine, currently up to £90.

Fares and fare collection

BRT fares will be comparable with existing public transport fares on the routes and concessionary fares will apply as they do to other forms of public transport throughout Belfast.

Payment systems and tariffs will be designed to encourage cashless payment. Tickets will be purchased prior to boarding to minimise waiting times at halts and will be integrated with other forms of public transport, where possible, to enable seamless interchange.

Intelligent Transport Systems

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) will enable users to be better informed and make safer, more coordinated, and ‘smarter’ use of public transport networks.

ITS on the BRT project will include:

  • accurate real-time passenger information including pre-trip and real-time journey information via onboard displays and through internet and mobile phone services
  • audio announcements on board the vehicles
  • automatic vehicle location system and signal control systems designed to give priority for BRT vehicles at signalised junctions

Branding and customer service

A key part of the successful delivery of high quality rapid transit systems is the development of a strong brand image.

The brand will be applied to all aspects of the system including travel information, halts, vehicles and signage. High quality customer service will be a key objective of the system.


The BRT system is being designed to make it as accessible as possible.

The system will include a number of features specifically aimed at improving accessibility:

  • 3 sets of double doors on the vehicles – for improved access and egress
  • high levels of circulation space within the vehicles
  • dedicated space for wheelchair users
  • priority seating for people with disabilities and the elderly
  • audio visual announcements on board the vehicles
  • raised kerbs at the halts and automatic ramps on vehicles to reduce step heights and enable easy access and egress from the vehicles
  • CCTV both on board the vehicles and at halts


The Department initially carried out a public consultation on the policy proposals for BRT from 23 November 2009 to 19 February 2010. More recently a further public consultation, focusing on the route options for BRT and a draft Equality Impact Assessment of the proposals, was carried out from 12 October 2011 to 6 January 2012.

These consultations indicated broad support for the BRT proposals.

In addition to these formal public consultations, as the detailed designs for each section of the BRT routes are completed, local Public Information Events are being undertaken at locations along the routes. These events provide an opportunity for local residents, businesses and elected representatives to view the plans and speak to members of the BRT project team.

Further consultations on the implementation of the specific bus lanes orders are being undertaken.


For general enquiries, contact the Belfast Rapid Transit Team.

Useful links

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