Belfast parents call for direct bus service to school after boy hit by car on busy road
The father of an 11-year-old boy who was hit by a car on a busy road in Belfast as he waited for a bus has hit out at Translink for refusing to provide a direct bus service to take students into their school grounds.
John Eppleston (47) said the hit-and-run incident in which his son Jay suffered three broken bones was an "accident waiting to happen".
Jay is one of 50 students from the Rathcoole area who are forced to walk almost a mile from a public bus stop to Hazelwood College every morning and evening.
Parents have to fork out £28 a month for the service which they say is putting children's lives at risk.
A campaign was launched last September to have a dedicated bus service to take students directly from Rathcoole to the college.
Mr Eppleston said that Jay, who is a first year pupil, has had to take a week off school to recovery from his injuries.
"He was also devastated because he missed out on playing in his school cup final," he said.
"He went to cross the road but spotted the car coming so he stepped back, but it went across his foot and then the car didn't stop for him.
"We took him to hospital and he has three broken bones in his foot. We had to bring him back up and they did a CT scan on him where they found more broken bones. They were worried because it was a hit-and-run.
"The injuries have highlighted the dangers of crossing that road. We knew something like this was going to happen.
"If there was a dedicated bus service he wouldn't have to try and cross the road, he would be on the bus and go straight home."
Students are having to cross four lanes of traffic through a main arterial route on the Shore Road, then across two smaller two lane busy roads before they can gain access to the school.
Roberta Neely, whose 12-year-old son attends the school, launched the campaign last September. She said: "We just want a bus that will take the children from Rathcoole and onto the school grounds because it's horrendous what they have to do.
"Translink is putting profit before a child's life. No one has come from Translink to witness what these children have to do to get to school.
"They are putting our children's lives at risk and we are no longer standing for it.
"We will go to court if we have to."
Maurice Fitzsimons, deputy principal of the school, said parents have the backing of the school.
"I have had three meetings with Translink to try and put this case forward," he said.
"I told them it's not adequate service and that it's leaving our children vulnerable in terms of health and safety.
"That incident was an accident waiting to happen and it could be very easily prevented."
A Translink spokeswoman said that the safety of passengers and staff was its "main priority".
"We continue to work closely with the Education Authority and schools on providing routes and services for school transport, based on demand," the spokeswoman added.
"As with all requests for additional or dedicated school services, existing service provision, passenger safety and accessibility are all taken into account when assessing these requests."