'Give the Glider a chance' road expert says as new Belfast buses launch

Civil service chief David Sterling, Belfast lord mayor Deirdre Hargey and Translink chief executive Chris Conway with stakeholders at the launch of the new Glider bus system. Picture by Brian Morrison
Brendan Hughes

ROAD users were urged to "give the Glider a chance" as the new Belfast bus system was officially launched yesterday ahead of next week's roll-out.

The fleet of bendy buses are aimed at encouraging more people to use public transport in east and west Belfast by offering streamlined ticketing and speedier journey times.

But the construction of new 12-hour bus lanes in recent months to accommodate the £90 million scheme has faced criticism from some traders over loss of parking and motorists caught in tailbacks.

Parents of children at one west Belfast primary school, St Kevin's on Falls Road, have been openly defying a parking ban at a new 12-hour bus lane.

Some Glider buses have already been operating this week to test the system, but the full passenger service will start on Monday.

An official launch was held at Belfast City Hall yesterday with key stakeholders getting a chance to journey along the new cross-city route between east and west Belfast.

Roads expert Wesley Johnston, who attended the launch, was impressed with the tram-like buses and described the transport system as "fundamentally sound".

"It's a very, very smooth ride. It's very different from Metro – it's a much smoother journey. It's a bit like a tram really, not unlike being on the Luas in Dublin.

"It's got a different feel about it. The maps above the doors remind me of the London underground."

Mr Johnston welcomed the new buses, but said: "I fully expect it to have teething problems."

More than 100 Glider halts have been constructed across the network and they include an off-board ticketing system. Fares are the same as existing Translink Metro tickets.

The 30 air-conditioned Glider buses have diesel-electric hybrid engines and accommodate up to 105 passengers, with three sets of doors to reduce boarding times.

Services aim to operate every seven-to-eight minutes from around 5.30am to midnight.

Glider will replace the Metro 4a, 4b and 4x services in east Belfast, and Metro 10c, 10d and 10e in west, although they will continue to operate as Glider feeder services.

Translink chief executive Chris Conway said Glider was a "further significant step towards making public transport your first choice for travel in Northern Ireland".

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