ONLY £35m of the near £150m cost of the North-South Glider route extension in Belfast has been secured, it's been revealed.

The North-South Glider phase was first announced by then-Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon in July 2021.

Now, in response to an Assembly question from South Belfast MLA Kate Nicholl, Infrastructure Minister John O'Dowd says only £35m of funding has been secured to extend the Glider, which currently operates from West to East Belfast.

"The estimated cost of the North Belfast to South Belfast Glider route is currently in the range of £142m to £148m. £35m of funding has been secured through Belfast Region City Deal," the Minister stated.

"My Department has been operating in a difficult financial environment for a number of years due to underfunding and austerity by the British government.

"The value of our infrastructure cannot be overstated, and I will continue to work with Executive colleagues and the Belfast Region City Deal Partners to ensure that the appropriate level of investment is made available to deliver the project.

"In my previous tenure as Minister for Infrastructure I announced the North to South Belfast Glider route from Carryduff in the south, along the Antrim Road to Glengormley.

"To ensure the correct decision is made, officials are currently finalising feasibility studies to determine the viability of extending the routes into Glengormley and Carryduff."

North Belfast SDLP Councillor Carl Whyte said that excuses won’t cut it when it comes to delivering improved public transport to the area.

“The extension of the Glider route to the North and South of our city was announced by the SDLP in government some years ago and progress has been painstakingly slow," he said.

"Given that not even a third of the money necessary to complete this project is in place it’s not an exaggeration to say that it could be many years before this is operational.

“I understand the financial pressures facing our Executive, but Ministers cannot continue to hide behind making difficult decisions and continually pass the buck to the British government. If elected I will actually go to Westminster and make the case for an improved funding package for the North that we can use to tackle the many issues we face, including improved public transport services like this one.

“It’s also concerning that it now appears no decision has been taken on extending the route to Glengormley and Carryduff. There are many reasons that extending the route makes sense, including improved connectivity for people living in these areas, and I cannot understand why it would be refused.

"The Minister cannot continue to use this as an additional excuse for unwarranted delays.”