Aspiring cub reporters win Translink tour and a £1,000 prize
Dozens of young reporters who scooped a £1,000 prize descended on the Belfast Telegraph's offices yesterday before being sent out on their first job.
The 30 aspiring writers from St MacNissi's Primary School in Newtownabbey, picked up essential news tips before being whisked off to Translink's train maintenance depot on a double-decker bus.
The children won their exclusive tour in the Translink Belfast Telegraph Little Reporters' competition after they submitted impressive articles highlighting the benefits of travelling by train or bus.
Once armed with a pen and notepad, they embarked upon a whistle-stop tour of the repair site to gain behind-the-scenes insight into the importance of public transport.
"These trains are built in Spain and assembled in Belfast," depot engineer Gareth Minn explained, while standing under an elevated train.
"This site was the old Guinness yard but was redeveloped specifically for our trains in 2012."
The P7 pupils were told about existing plans to double capacity on seven trains within the next two years after one inquisitive pupil asked how many wheels are on a train.
"Each coach has eight wheels and there are three coaches so that's 24," Mr Minn explained.
"But we have plans to add three additional coaches to some of our trains as passenger numbers continue to rise and rise."
The schoolchildren were impressed after learning that each 63.4 tonne carriage is worth around £1m.
But they were more enthralled after getting a hands-on experience during a tour of a train simulator where new employees spend a year learning the ropes.
Translink's Ursula Henderson explained how safety is the most important thing to all those who work for the transport company and why all passengers should stay behind the yellow line at every train station.
"Last year we took a record 84.5 million passengers and it is vital everyone gets on and off safely," she told the group of budding reporters.
"We also want services to be reliable and punctual so that we are people's first choice for travel."
As part of her research into public transport, Noelle asked her mum and brother about why they use the train, while Jude outlined why public transport was crucial for her sister to get to university and young Aoife turned to her dad to find out the benefits of Translink services.
Yesterday, the group demonstrated their flair for journalism once again by getting their heads down at the conference room to write a story which was then published on the Belfast Telegraph website.
Following the unique opportunity to learn about news and Northern Ireland's public transport network, the young writers and their teacher Fiona Donnelly were presented with a large cheque.
"Having learnt about report writing in the classroom, it was great for the children to experience it in a real-life context and to get a taste of life as a journalist today," Ms Donnelly said.
"They were particularly interested in the photography and digital aspects of the newspaper and were surprised by just how much work goes into preparing the paper for print."
The teacher now believes she has quite a few budding journalists and engineers in her class but for now, they are all focused on their next challenge - working out how to spend their prize money.
"Some initial thoughts have been to put it towards further developing our outdoor area at school so the whole school community can benefit - but I'm sure we'll keep some aside for a well-deserved treat," she said.
A selection of winning articles and photographs of the trip will be published in next Friday's edition of the Belfast Telegraph.