Northern Ireland news

DUP MPs at odds over Glider bus stop, Translink emails claim

The 'Short Strand' Glider bus stop in east Belfast, and inset, DUP MPs Gavin Robinson and Emma Little-Pengelly
Brendan Hughes

TWO DUP MPs were at odds over whether to controversially lobby transport chiefs about the name of a Glider bus stop in east Belfast, newly disclosed emails suggest.

Emma Little-Pengelly was forced to deny a sectarian motive after voicing "serious concerns" during the summer about the name 'Short Strand' – a mainly nationalist area – for a city-bound bus halt on Albertbridge Road.

At the time the South Belfast MP said she had liaised with East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson to request a joint meeting with Transport NI officials in the Department for Infrastructure (DfI).

However, in Translink correspondence obtained by The Irish News, an official said they understood Mr Robinson had "made it clear" he would "not be pursuing" the matter.

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The correspondence also reveals a single handwritten letter Translink received from a customer about the bus stop in December last year.

In July, Ms Pengelly wrote to residents, saying the bus halt name "does not reflect either the area or the history of the area" and it was "clearly not a Short Strand stop".

Translink however pointed out that inbound and outbound halts are named in pairs, and the new Glider stop had simply replaced a previous Metro stop of the same name.

Following criticism online, Ms Pengelly insisted it was "not a sectarian issue at all" and said she was merely responding to the concerns of a constituent who had contacted her.

Emails obtained from Translink through Freedom of Information requests show officials discussed the matter after it drew media attention.

One official wrote: "I haven't received any correspondence direct from MLAs on the matter. DfI did receive correspondence and replied offering to meet but it wasn't taken up.

"I also understand that Gavin Robinson has made it clear, as MP for the area, that he will not be pursuing it."

Before Ms Pengelly had raised the matter, Translink had received one letter from a customer about the bus stop's name as part of the new Glider service.

They said they usually get a bus at the junction of the Ravenhill and Albertbridge roads, but the "voice announcer usually refers to this stop as 'Short Strand' when Short Strand is on the far side of today's multi-lane road system".

They said the Albert Bridge is "strangely" not mentioned, and proposed re-naming the city-bound Glider stop 'Albert Bridge' and retaining 'Short Strand' for the return journey stop.

"Wishing the Glider every success. I hope you will take my proposal into consideration," they wrote in December last year.

The DUP did not respond to requests for a comment.

Previously disclosed emails show how Ms Pengelly's office approached DfI about the bus stop despite Translink explaining the Glider halt's name to them five months earlier.

Transport officials were also lobbied by two unionist councillors. The DUP's George Dorrian had urged officials to meet with him and PUP councillor John Kyle to discuss "very real and genuine concerns" about the halt being called 'Short Strand'.

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