Falls Road businesses set to close because of 'disastrous' Glider
THREE months after the introduction of the £90m Glider rapid transport system, two well-known businesses in west Belfast are preparing to shut up shop, branding the new service a "disaster" for local traders.
Auto Spares and Domestic Services, both based on the Falls Road, are set to close, claiming business dropped dramatically when 12-hour bus lanes, operating six days a week, were introduced.
Having become fully operational in September, the service links east and west Belfast and Titanic Quarter with the city centre.
However, in the lead-up to the launch, some traders in west Belfast voiced fears for the future of their businesses, especially those directly on the Andersonstown/Falls Road which are heavily reliant on passing trade.
Now, three months on, at least two businesses say they are preparing to close while others have revealed trade has also been hit but have managed to stay afloat by introducing home delivery services.
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Thomas Daly, who runs Auto Spares on the Falls Road near Beechmount for 36 years, is set to close within the next two months.
A once popular car parts and accessories business, the introduction of 12-hour bus lanes for the Glider has seen business fall by a third.
Mr Daly, a father-of-four, from the Stewartstown Road, opened the shop in 1982.
Due to retire next year, the 69-year-old said he was closing down a year early as a direct consequence of the new bus lanes.
"I always fit window blades for people every day but there is no parking now on the front of the road," he said.
"There are a lot of people who are afraid to stop now.
"When the Glider was three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, you could put up with that but six days a week, 12 hours a day, it doesn't make sense. Especially on a Saturday when there are no schools on."
Mr Daly his noticed how business fell "by a good third" in the weeks after the new road rules were introduced.
"The side streets are totally chock-a-block," he said.
Saying he felt he had no option but to close, Mr Daly said: "It's hard. I have to go. You feel it is forcing you to go.
"It's OK for people who use the service but for the shops on the front of the road, it's a disaster.
"After Christmas, you will find more shops closing. I know others are feeling the pinch too.
"It has destroyed all the shops".
A short distance away, businessman Eugene Keaney is also preparing to shut up shop.
The 75-year-old, who owns Domestic Services - which repairs household appliances - ran a shop on the Andersonstown Road for more than 30 years before moving to the Falls Road three years ago.
He is now planning to close in the coming days.
Mr Keaney, who lives at Finaghy, said while he will still works from home carrying out repairs on 'Henry' range vacuums and cookers, he will miss the Falls Road community.
He said his business was hit because customers can no longer park close by to bring in appliances for repair.
"The turnover dropped by 70 per cent," he said.
"It isn't feasible to keep going.
"We get a lot of people bringing machines in, mainly ladies, and they simply can't park and as well as that, the side streets are full of cars. People park there and get the bus into city.
"They can't bring their appliances on a bus. We get a lot of customers from the Shankill and Sandy Row.
"I remember one lady parked at Broadway and carried two machines in. She was 65 years-old and she came in panting. She lived on the Lisburn Road."
Mr Keaney said in his view there was no need for 12-hour bus lanes arguing for a shorter time frame.
"There are several traders and their heads are turned and some can't get out of their leases. I was lucky enough.
"I am over 70 but I still enjoy it. I will still be doing.
"I will be out by December 2. I am sad. I am in the heart of the Falls and everyone knows you."