Northern Ireland news

Parents flout bus lanes as Glider launches in Belfast

Parents park in the new bus lanes to drop their kids off at St Kevins School on the Falls Road Picture Mal McCann.

EVEN as the new £90m Belfast Rapid Transit Glider service became fully operational yesterday, efforts were being made to restrict its future journeys.

The `bendy buses', linking east Belfast, west Belfast and the Titanic Quarter with the city centre, are due to run every seven to eight minutes.

With a capacity equivalent to 87 cars for each vehicle, Gliders are designed to ease congestion during morning and afternoon rush hours.

They will replace the majority of Metro 4 and 10 services with purpose-built bus lanes running from 7am-7pm on Monday to Saturday.

However, yesterday furious commuters inundated Translink with complaints after the failures of some prepaid tickets to be recognised and delays of up to 40 minutes in east Befast.

One east Belfast residents reported a child took 25 minutes longer to get to school than she had when taking the usual Metro service.

The east Belfast service was reported to be exceptionally busy, with users likening it to "a London tube at rush hour totally overloaded" with standing room only and "totally squashed".

The longest delays appeared to be leaving the city centre and travelling towards Stormont

Meanwhile, several left Wellington Place virtually empty on their way to the Titanic Quarter.

Workmen were still finishing off the paving around the Glider stop, painstakingly filling in the concrete around an ornamental tree.

There were complaints from passengers on the Dundonald Park and Ride bus disembarking in the city centre before 10am that it "doesn't stop at all the stops the pink buses do".

"I think that's awful, it takes you out of your way," said Katrina who had travelled into town with her daughter and grandchild.

An hour earlier, in west Belfast, parents on the Falls Road were stopping in the outside lane to let their children out at St Kevin's Primary School, with the young pupils darting across the empty bus lane.

The school had been the focus of dissent when the bus lane was first introduced, with parents continuing to defiantly park outside the school gates.

A few lingered at the beginning of the bus lane at drop-off and pick-up times - most with someone in the driver's seat to beat a hasty retreat should a warden appear.

By 2pm, most had made the decision to either walk or park at the nearby cemetery.

"I've been parking in the graveyard," Aisling Magee, whose children are seven and four, said.

"They've said it's OK, because it's only for a short period of time in the morning and afternoon."

However, another mother of twins in P2 said "it's not very nice for the children to be going there every day".

Bernadette Brannigan, who does the school run with her six-year-old granddaughter, has been walking "about 10 minutes from the Whiterock".

"It's fine now, but she's already said she's not doing it when it's winter."

People Before Profit councillor Matt Collins proposed a motion at last night's Belfast City Council meeting calling for the concerns of those living along the route to be "resolved".

It followed a "mass meeting of residents in west Belfast last week", with some of those present staging a short protest outside the council at 5.30pm yesterday.

"West Belfast is facing a crisis of local planning and in some areas BRT is making things worse," Mr Collins said.

"The elderly and those with disabilities have been restricted from parking at their own homes in some areas.

"We have the disastrous situation at St. Kevin's School, where parents have no safe area to drop children off in the morning.

"Double yellow lines have been extended into residential areas and access to shops has been restricted. More generally, there has been a rise in congestion and the department has failed to introduce any mitigating measures to address any of this."

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