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'Chaos' as parents defy bus lane ban outside west Belfast school

A Glider bus on the Falls Road in west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

PARENTS defied a ban on parking in a new bus lane yesterday to drop off their children at a primary school on the first day of the new term.

Several parents risked a £90 fine by parking in the bus lane on west Belfast's Falls Road outside St Kevin's Primary School.

To coincide with the introduction of the Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) Glider bus service, the time cars are restricted from the bus lane has been extended to 12 hours.

It means that vehicles other than buses cannot use the lanes between 7am and 7pm.

The school's principal described the situation as "chaos" and urged transport chiefs to speak to parents to resolve their concerns.

One parent said she was ensuring her five-year-old son's safety and that he was "happy going into school for his first day".

She told the BBC: "What are you meant to do? If you want to ensure your child's safety getting into school then where are you meant to park?

"There was some parents parking in the graveyard to bring their kids to school. My son's full of anxiety, doesn't want to see graves in the morning when he goes into school, so I had to do it."

"I made sure I held his hand to bring him right to the back of the school because he's only five," she added.

It follows a public meeting held on Wednesday night in which some west Belfast residents voiced their concerns over the new bus lanes.

St Kevin's principal Fiona Keegan said: "I think we need to have further discussion that maybe should have happened before now.

"I do understand we're all trying to promote healthy lifestyles in schools.

"I'm not sure whether it's going to have the impact that they really want it to have because of the chaos that it causes to the parents at my school."

Gerry Carroll, a West Belfast MLA for People Before Profit, said he spoke with parents and staff.

He accused transport officials of failing to "adequately engage" with people to address concerns.

"People are very worried about a potential accident or fatality happening outside the school. This school is on a main route in west Belfast and sees parents dropping children off to school every morning," he wrote on Facebook.

In a statement last night a Department for Infrastructure spokesman said: "The new BRT bus lanes operate between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday.

"They are clearly marked by solid white lines on the road and blue bus lane signs. Anyone who drops off or collects pupils from school should be aware that they are not allowed to drive or stop in the new bus lanes during their hours of operation.

"However, there are gaps in the bus lanes to allow access to side streets. The Department asks everyone, including pupils, to take extra care until they are familiar with the new arrangements."

The spokesman said the department had engaged with schools along the BRT route and would be contacting all primary schools along the BRT route offering to "speak to pupils and staff about safe, sustainable travel to school".

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