Belfast Telegraph

Any other public servant would be straight out door

By Lyra McKee

A Twitter search for Translink's name will take you to what looks like an A-Z guide to bad behaviour on public transport.

The catch? Most of the bad behaviour is committed by the drivers themselves.

One user, @NatashaMurray, reported seeing the 2A Metro bus leave its stop with a passenger trapped between the doors.

Another reported safety concerns about a train leaving Moira.

One passerby reported seeing a bus smash into a traffic light on the Ormeau Road before continuing on with its journey to Belfast city centre without stopping.

Countless other reports detail Translink drivers verbally abusing passengers - something I've experienced myself on a number of occasions.

While Translink encourages people to make complaints, one user, @shezzat, noted that she'd raised her complaint by Twitter, email, letter and phone since June, with, as yet, no reply.

"I think that's quite a lot," she tweeted the company.

So, as horrified as I was by the homophobic comments made by a Translink bus driver who referred to the revellers attending the Belfast Pride parade as "bum-busters", I was not at all surprised to hear that he hadn't been suspended, or that he'd yet to apologise for his comments.

I don't want to tar everyone with the same brush: there are some wonderful, polite, helpful Translink drivers.

Another Twitter user noted how one bus driver helped ensure a pensioner got on the right bus after boarding the wrong one.

That other drivers allegedly challenged the homophobic remark made by their colleague is wonderful: please, somebody, give those guys a raise because they sure deserve one.

But what incentive do those drivers have to keep providing the wonderful public service they do when their colleagues do the opposite and get away with it?

This incident, while it affects the LGBT community directly - we use public transport as much as the next person - is much bigger than us.

While the storm will blow over in a couple of days, too many Translink drivers will continue to act in vile, horrible ways and get away with it.

In a post-conflict country that's trying to build its tourism industry, that spells trouble.

Thanks to this latest incident, when a tourist Googles 'Translink Northern Ireland', or, even worse, searches for it on Twitter, they are going to see the ugliest aspects of our society.

Let's not forget what Translink is - a publicly-owned company, paid for by our taxes.

Its staff are essentially public servants.

If a politician or a civil servant made these comments within earshot of the public, would we let them off with anything less than a resignation letter?

  • Lyra McKee is a Belfast-based freelance journalist

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