Anger at plan to remove bus memorial to drivers killed in Troubles
Transport Museum slated for plans to move it into storage
There is growing anger over plans to remove a double-decker on display in a museum, placed there in memory of public transport bus drivers killed during the Troubles.
The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra was given the red Daimler Fleetline bus where it has been exhibited as a tribute to the 12 murdered employees for 20 years.
However, members from two of Northern Ireland's bus preservation groups have criticised plans to move the memorial, which is the last of its kind, from the transport museum into storage.
It was part of the Citybus fleet introduced in 1973 but a year later it was destroyed in an attack.
However, the chassis was recovered and the bus was re-bodied by British bus-building company Alexander's by April 1976.
The last Fleetlines were withdrawn in 1989, with the exception of the bus now in the museum, which remained for a further five years on the company's Belfast City Tour.
After finally being withdrawn in March 1994, it passed to the museum a year later.
A spokeswoman for National Museums Northern Ireland said the memorial is being moved for a "temporary period" as part of proposals to revitalise displays.
"Like museums all over the world, National Museums Northern Ireland aims to develop new displays and refresh exhibits on an ongoing basis," she said.
"We are currently reviewing proposals to revitalise displays in our Road Transport gallery which may involve moving this bus from display for a temporary period.
"This will also enable staff to carry out conservation work on this important object."
However, Robert Nogues, a member of Ards Bus Preservation Group, said there are fears it will be thrown out and dumped in storage. He has called for the bus to remain in the museum or to be handed back to Translink. "Once it's thrown out no one will ever see it again because it's a rare vehicle," he said.
"It should stay in the museum and shouldn't be turfed outside never to be seen again. It's not fair and it's the only one of its kind that has been preserved.
"It's sitting in there with a flat tyre on one side and if anyone tows it out it will probably cause more damage.
"It's there as an exhibit, as a memorial to drivers who were killed. If they let members from the bus preservation group in we can get it running and it can be driven out rather than trailed out of it. It would be better to drive out as it would save it from any damage.
"The Ards Preservation group have an interest in it and if the museum really want to remove it then the bus could be stored in the Falls bus depot."
Thomas Mitchell, a former bus driver, is also opposed to the removal plans. "This is a historical vehicle and one-of-a-kind. It is totally disgusting what the museum want to do by putting it into a storage shed," he said.
"As someone who owns and maintains vintage vehicles, that bus should be returned to Translink, who donated it, or given to one of the two bus preservations groups in Northern Ireland who have the facilities to look after this vehicle."