Anne Hailes: Boo to the Arts Council – and where will these Gliders take us?

One of the new Glider buses in central Belfast Picture: Mal McCann

BOO to the Arts Council. They have turned down the Linen Hall Library application for funding. £25,000 is vital for cultural events, lecturers, exhibition performances and reading and that's all apart from being a world famous and much appreciated library.

The Linen Hall is appealing the decision and ask for public support by writing to the Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, 1 The Sidings, Antrim Road, Lisburn, BT28 3AJ. Or email:

Dear Anne,

Why did those in charge of transport in Belfast not put in a railway system like in Dublin? The new long buses are going to change everything for drivers and public trying to live along these bus lanes.

Concerned, BT12

Last year the Luas line carried 37.6 million passengers to 67 different stations covering Dublin. It was deemed that this was not a viable proposition in Belfast and would cost approximately seven times more than the new Glider bus service.

Another question. “Why were these buses not made in Northern Ireland to support home industry?”

European law demands such a project be put out to tender and advertised accordingly. The winner of the contract was Van Hool of Belguim which took three years to complete making the buses, apparently 32 ordered with 30 already here.

And this letter from a disabled reader:

Blue badge holders are allowed 10 minutes between 10am and 2pm to drop off and pick up. One disabled man says he's a prisoner in his house from seven in the morning until seven at night as he can no longer park his car outside his own front door.

One other thing that has become obvious, apparently, is that no provision has been taken for what to do with the extra road traffic. They are effectively cutting our main road in half by making half of them bus lanes.

It seems no thought has been given to where all this extra traffic is going. Obviously we are in for a nightmare period of traffic jams and very slow traffic.

HM, Belfast 4

What about dropping off passengers, collecting schoolchildren, picking up prescriptions, and the rest? ‘Loading and unloading' – as in loading bays is allowed 10am to 2pm at the moment but no ‘shopping'.

The question of inconvenience seems to be like it or lump it.

With two hubs in the east and west of the city, commercial premises around these areas will be quids in with people gathering there to cross town. Shops, cafes and businesses will have a captive audience waiting for their bendy bus.

The buses are already making brief appearances in Belfast and very impressive they are. On August 21 five buses will be tested, August 28 ‘stress testing' the operation with passengers on board starts and by September 3 the complete programme will be up and running.

According to the Depart for Infrastructure, road resurfacing on the city route is almost complete and the Upper Newtownards Road will be finished by August. This includes updated drainage and lighting.

It's known that, subject to demand, Glider services will operate between 5am and 12 midnight on weekdays, weekend services will start slightly later in the morning and potentially operate later at night. Services will operate at seven-to-eight-minute intervals throughout the working day, early morning and late evening services will operate at intervals of around 20 minutes and services will be tailored to meet times of peak demand such as major sporting or entertainment events.

Is it all a storm in a teacup? Possibly a benefit for commuters, difficult for cyclists, motorcyclists and many other travellers but not for those along the route. This time next year will we be fitting into this new pattern of transport? That remains to be seen.

I wonder who trains shop assistants

TALKING to others, we agree there's a lack of understanding when it comes to dealing with customers. I bought a packet containing two pillows – at least there should have been two but when I got home and opened it up one was missing.

It was very inconvenient going back as we were about to go on holiday; however, I did and got a very disinterested reception. I explained and was told to go and find a package with two in it. I ask her to get one for me: “We're short staffed.”

How could such a thing happen, I asked. “Someone must have stolen one.”

At the end of the encounter I said to the young woman: “Would it ever occur to you to apologise to me on behalf of your company as I had to travel all the way back to put this mistake right.”

Suddenly she looked at me slightly startled: “I am sorry,” she said. “I am really sorry.”

And she meant it. She had snapped out of her automatic response and saw a real person in front of her. More power to her, and we had a nice conversation.

It happened again last week. Returning fruit which was inedible, the implication was that I had picked off the plastic cover and allowed the hot air into the grapes. I explained I had brought them three hours earlier.

“Do you want a replacement or refund?”

I had no receipt so I had no option, had to have a replacement.

“You can go and get them.” I declined and asked the young man to choose for me. He did – not exactly delighted. Then he said: “Anything else?” Yes I ventured, an apology would be a good idea; not your fault but you are representing your company and I am a dissatisfied customer.

He apologised with a smile. It's so nice to have a happy experience when shopping and we the shopper bear a responsibility to make these young assistants feel appreciated.

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