Dismay as council cuts back on free Roselawn Cemetery shuttle bus for elderly
A free bus service which shuttles older people to and from Roselawn Cemetery is being scaled back because of budget pressures.
The bus has been operating every Tuesday and Friday for the past seven years.
It acts as a lifeline to many older people who do not have access to a car, allowing them to visit their loved ones' graves. Now the Tuesday service is being reduced due to cutbacks.
The bus will only operate on the first Tuesday of the month, and from a single pick-up point.
The Friday service will be unaffected.
The decision was taken by Belfast City Council's people and communities committee. Councillors said the number of people using the service had fallen, and it was no longer prudent to keep the bus running twice a week.
An older people's charity warned the move could have a serious impact.
Linda Robinson, who is chief executive of Age NI, said adequate access to transport is essential for older people.
"The bus service to Roselawn enables people to pay their respects to loved ones on a regular basis," she said. "To reduce the opportunity to do so could have a devastating impact on people who rely on the service."
The Roselawn Cemetery shuttle bus started in 2008, with Disability Action providing the twice-weekly service.
Belfast City Council paid £2,700 a year to hire the service.
According to the council, the bus has proved popular on Fridays, although numbers have fallen on three of the four rotational pick-up areas on Tuesdays.
In March Disability Action said it no longer had the resources to provide the service.
As an interim measure Belfast Bus Company has been providing the twice-weekly service since April. However, this is due to finish at the end of the month.
Ulster Unionist councillor Sonya Copeland, who sits on the people and communities committee, said the decision would be kept under review.
"It depends on its usage. If the service is not going to be used, then it's a waste of money to keep running it twice a week," she said.
Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers, who also sits on the committee, said it was an unfortunate decision.
"However, the numbers are not there and reluctantly we have decided we have to cut back."