Belfast Telegraph

Threat from trade union over plans to axe bus services in Northern Ireland

By Rebecca Black

A trade union has launched a people power campaign in opposition to proposed savage cuts to local transport services and has threatened industrial action.

Last week the Belfast Telegraph revealed that one city and 13 towns will completely lose their local bus services next year, while a further seven will see their services slashed if draft budget proposals are approved in January.

The draft cuts come after the Department for Regional Development was ordered to make savings of £65m.

Unite yesterday launched its Hands Off Public Transport people power campaign to defend public transport services.

It said the threats to local bus services was "an attack on older people, disabled, families and working poor".

Unite official Davy McMurray said it planned to build an alliance with local community groups for the campaign, and warned of "protracted industrial action".

Yesterday, following a meeting with senior shop stewards across both bus and rail services, Mr McMurray expressed his union's total opposition to proposals, which would also see a hike in fares.

"DRD proposals to slash local bus services in 14 major regional towns and reduce local pick-up points and the frequency of services will have a hugely adverse impact on the most vulnerable sections of our society," said Mr McMurray.

He accused DRD of targeting front line services, instead of reducing what he termed "tier-after-tier of unproductive and bloated management".

"If the minister insists on a course of decimating public transport, we are intent on balloting our members on protracted industrial action to defend our bus and rail services," he said.

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans also opposes the proposed cuts and said: "We recognise that some routes may not be economically viable but Government should be doing all it can to promote public transport and encouraging people to make a few changes to their daily travel choices, such as taking the bus, walking and cycling".

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