Belfast Telegraph

Calls for bus grow after two Belfast pupils knocked down

By Cate McCurry

A campaign to have a direct bus service to a Belfast school has been stepped up after two students were knocked down on a busy road in less than a week.

A 12-year-old girl was injured on Tuesday morning as she made her way to Hazelwood College.

Days earlier, 11-year-old schoolboy Jay Eppleston suffered three broken bones in a hit-and-run.

The worrying incidents follow a dispute between parents and Translink, which has refused to provide up to 50 schoolchildren with a direct bus from Rathcoole to the college site.

The school's deputy principal, Maurice Fitzsimons, has requested an urgent meeting with Translink officials in a bid to secure the service.

Julie Caldwell said her daughter, Katie, a first-year pupil, was taken to hospital after the crash.

The mother from Rathcoole added that she feared for her daughter's future safety.

"If this continues the way it is someone will be seriously hurt," she stressed.

"I think that if the kids were getting a bus straight to school, then they would be safe and we wouldn't have to worry.

"Katie needs to get that bus, so my nerves are going to be wrecked every day."

Mrs Caldwell's daughter was left with bruising and scrapes along the side of her left leg.

"The school rang my husband and I and he rushed to the school and took her to the Mater Hospital to make sure she was okay and no internal damage was caused," said Julie.

"Katie was left very shaken up, and this morning her hips and legs are very sore.

"I am now very worried about her getting to school in the mornings and on her way home too."

Katie and Jay, who was injured in last week's hit-and-run, are two 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 are having to fork out £28 a month for the current 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 the area to the college.

Julie said: "Thankfully, Katie was not hit on the head or it could have been a lot worse.

"It's not a nice phone call to get that your child has been injured on the way to school when it could easily have been prevented.

"I'm right behind this campaign. How many other accidents are going to happen before something is done about it? The kids are all shocked by this too."

A Translink spokeswoman said pupils travelling from Rathcoole to Hazelwood College currently used scheduled Metro services.

In a statement, Translink added: "Pupil safety is always our top priority and we are concerned at these recent incidents.

"We have been working with Hazelwood College and the Education Authority to ensure pupils have a safe journey to and from the school.

"We would urge all Hazelwood College pupils to use the Grays Lane bus stop on the Shore Road where there is a pelican crossing providing access to the pedestrian entrance onto school grounds.

"We have offered to revisit the school with our dedicated safety bus to help promote safety messages and are committed to working with all concerned, including the school, community and other stakeholders to help improve road safety awareness."

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