Northern Ireland news

Key workers struggling to use Glider after youths 'crowd' onto buses

The Glider on the Falls Road in west Belfast Picture By Hugh Russell.

KEY frontline workers from west Belfast are struggling to travel safely on the cross-city Glider service because youths are disrupting social distancing by "crowding" onto the buses and shelters and ticket machines and shelters have been vandalised.

For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, Translink has issued a plea to the community for anti-social behaviour to be brought under control for the safety of those who depend on it.

The transport company said the attacks on shelters and ticket vending machines (TVMs) has been going on for "weeks" and "crowding of vehicles by groups of youths, has been a problem in parts of west Belfast.

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"Damage and disruption" to ticket machines has "caused problems and inconvenience for key workers who rely on public transport to complete essential journeys during the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak", it said.

During the Bank Holiday weekend there were "significant numbers of young people using services, jeopardising social distancing requirements and inconveniencing key frontline workers".

Sean McGreevy, Translink's service delivery manager for west Belfast said it is "a dynamic and resourceful community that has benefited greatly from the introduction of Glider services in September 2018".

"That makes it all the more disappointing that a small, unrepresentative group of people has been causing damage to Glider infrastructure and engaging in anti-social behaviour on board.

"Many local essential workers rely on public transport to get to and from work, and I'm disappointed that these key journeys have been made more difficult by vandalism and attacks on ticket vending machines (TVMs) and halts.

He said ticket machines allow contactless payment and top-up which are vital during the pandemic.

"Our teams are doing all they can to keep the TVMs clean, but the actions of a few are making the lives of the whole community more challenging."

Mr McGreevy said the company "has stepped up to help the local community through these difficult days, and we've been proud to offer free travel to NHS and carer staff as they complete essential journeys on behalf of us all, something which has benefited many people in west Belfast".

He said it is working with local politicians, community groups and the PSNI "to find a way forward for this problem".

"No-one in West Belfast wins as a result of selfish vandalism, and it must stop."

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