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A few bumps along the way as Glider bus service makes its Belfast bow

Protests and praise greet new era for public transport

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The new Glider bus service

The new Glider bus service

Disabled driver Fintan Heatley

Disabled driver Fintan Heatley

Belfast Telegraph journalist Victoria Leonard takes a journey on the new Glider

Belfast Telegraph journalist Victoria Leonard takes a journey on the new Glider

Kathryn Spratt

Kathryn Spratt

Passengers on board

Passengers on board

Protester Joseph McArdle

Protester Joseph McArdle

Teacher Una Toman

Teacher Una Toman

David McClymont waiting for the Glider to come

David McClymont waiting for the Glider to come

The new Glider bus service

Belfast's new Glider bus service is forcing drivers to park in side streets, blocking access for disabled residents, bin lorries, a primary school, and potentially even the emergency services, the scheme's opponents have said.

Yesterday marked the first official day of operation for the £90m Belfast Rapid Transport project, which runs a cross-city G1 route between east and west Belfast and a G2 route from the city centre to the Titanic Quarter.

There was a mixed reaction among passengers on the service, with some hailing it as "brilliant" and others expressing frustration at delays.

Translink acknowledged there had been "teething issues" with the system after some morning and afternoon delays.

However, it added it had received "a lot of positive feedback from the public". But at a protest outside Belfast City Hall organised by People Before Profit councillor Matthew Collins yesterday, west Belfast residents said the new service was "going to create havoc".

Stockmans Lane resident Paul Kennedy (65) said he had received a letter last week to say bin lorries can no longer access his street due to the number of cars parked there, which he attributes to the removal of parking spaces on the main road to accommodate the Glider.

"People are parking down the side streets now," he said.

"I can't get my bins emptied.

"And if the bin lorries can't get down, how is the Fire Service or Ambulance Service going to get down?

"It's the difference between dying and not dying.

"And because of the build-up in the main street, the side streets where kids are running around are going to turn into a thoroughfare.

"You don't feel safe around your own area. I'm not against the Glider, but at what cost? Someone's life?"

Andersonstown resident Joseph McArdle (64), a private taxi driver of around 20 years and a former bus driver, said he "may have to call it quits" as he won't be able to earn a living because of the Glider's introduction.

"The vast majority of taxis in this town are private taxis, but we still do a public service," he said. "We were told to put meters in, and what are the punters going to think of a two-mile journey which might cost double?

"It will put some taxi drivers out of business, the same as businesses on the Falls Road or east Belfast. Wait until the winter comes when people can't get down to access these buses.

"They depend on taxis."

"This is serious, it's going to create havoc, especially where schools like St Kevin's Primary School are concerned.

"This city is too small for 12-hour bus lanes. It's harming the community it's meant to help."

Disabled driver Fintan Heatley (58) said that he could no longer park his car "anywhere near" his home.

"My house is on the Falls Road and you can't park there any more," he said.

"Because people can't park in the main roads they are trying to park in the side streets, so residents have nowhere to go."

Meanwhile, P1 teacher at St Kevin's Una Toman (36), who lives on the Glen Road, said her concern was for the children at her school.

"We have just under 600 pupils and there's nowhere for parents to park," she said.

"It's a real safety hazard.

"I just hope that it's not going to take an accident for them to do something. I don't want kids to lose their lives."

Yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph boarded the Glider service to east Belfast, which was running 23 minutes late as rush hour began.

Dundonald woman Kathryn Spratt (38) said her earlier morning service from Dundonald park and ride had "worked well" but called the afternoon wait "frustrating".

"My old bus was only ever about five minutes late. Before I had a choice of three buses, now I only have one," she said.

"The other services have been taken off because of the Glider. It is frustrating. I have two kids who are waiting at home for me.

"I think it's teething problems. I have no other option, so I'm just hoping it'll get better."

Belmont Road man David McClymont, who was also travelling home on the service after using it to get to work that morning, described it as "really easy" to use.

"It took about the same amount of time," he said.

"I was a bit underwhelmed when I got on it this morning, but then again it's the first day.

"If the system works how it's supposed to work it will be good. To wait over 20 minutes isn't a great start, but I'm not going to judge it too early."

However, east Belfast woman Hazel Patterson (66) called the service "absolutely superb".

"The best thing is that the driver is behind a sealed unit, so there's no faffing about with people looking change or asking how to get anywhere," she said.

"It's straight on and people have already got their ticket. People don't realise how much time is wasted when a bus stops to process a queue of people.

"People who drive into town are going to be clogged up in traffic, and they will see Glider after Glider passing them by and maybe the penny will drop."

Belfast Telegraph