Ulster breakthrough: Rebuilt city centre will try and bar the car

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER HAS not been lacking in valour since an IRA bomb blew the heart out of it three years ago. The city council demonstrated more of the quality yesterday by announcing it will restrict car access when the main shopping areas reopen next week.

The June 1996 bomb has been the catalyst for a spectacular rebuilding programme that has seen investment reach four times the cost of the damage. Free buses and extensions to the Metrolink "supertram" will be major features in the pounds 500m new-look plans presented by the city council. A new public transport interchange linking the city's bus services and the Metrolink is at the centre of the vision.

The plan to limit private vehicles was handled delicately, with city leaders insisting it would not ban people's cars, but provide alternatives. Two roads in the city centre would be closed to cars, said the council chairman, Richard Leese, but there would be measures to upgrade car-parking and improve signs around the city's new one-way system. Planners hope the new transport system will make the city centre safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

The reconstruction is spectacular. The shopping areas, to be reopened on 24 November, will have the biggest Marks & Spencer in the world. Two listed public houses have been taken apart and rebuilt timber by timber in a new Exchange Square, and New Cathedral Street will be the first street to be built in the city centre since the Second World War ended.

The footbridge linking the Arndale centre - rebuilt because the old building was so badly damaged by the blast it had to be demolished - with the new Marks & Spencer has been replaced by a futuristic glass sculpture. The reconstruction is the hook for a new image campaign that will include a new "Manchester" typeface. and Photographs of the city are to adorn a 50ft by 200ft banner in the Arndale Centre.