Belfast Telegraph

Give Glider a chance: Transport chiefs say Belfast bus service will only get better

By Jonathan Bell

Day one of the new £90m Belfast Rapid Transit scheme was hailed a success, despite a few minor bumps in the road, with transport officials saying the service will only get better urging the public to give the Gliders a chance.

The new system officially begun on Monday morning. It operates along corridors in the east and west of the city with buses scheduled to run every seven to eight minutes.

It's introductions has proved controversial. Road works led to long delays in east Belfast, with businesses in the west of the city expressing fears for their livelihood with the 12-hour bus lanes on their doorstep.

On Monday there were reports of delays and passengers had to wait for a following bus with the 105-passenger vehicles filled to capacity and minor teething problems with signage and ticketing. 

Translink said diversions for buses around the city because of the fire at Primark contributed to the issues.

There was also a small protest held at City Hall by those opposed to the 12-hour bus lanes, while outside a west Belfast school cars were seen parking in the lanes in contravention of the rules.

Parents expressed their frustrations saying previously the bus lane was only in operation on one side of the road and it was "ridiculous" they could not now park on either side of the road. because of the new lane restrictions.

Translink said two additional buses will be put on service to cope with the demand on Tuesday and it received "a lot of positive feedback".

Robin Totten, from Translink, said there had been "minor" issues with the first official day.

"The main thing is that vehicles are moving across the city and moving efficiency and that will only improve in the coming days and weeks," he told the BBC.

"The primary thing for us is about moving more people and moving them in a reliable way. We've never ourselves focused on the rapid side, more on the reliable."

Ciaran de Burca from the Department for Infrastructure said it was crucial to the system the bus lane corridors were free from parked cars.

He explained how at some schools travel arrangements had been re-organised to ensure no one needed to park in the bus lanes. He said officials from the department - including those from the active travel unit - would be meeting with the principal at St Kevin's to discuss arrangements.

"We are running the Glider service every seven-and-a-half to eight minutes so we need to make sure the road space is available," he said.

"People want a regular service... we can't afford to have the bus held up by parked cars."

He said there were new park and ride systems to encourage those using the car to use the bus.

"We are not anti car," he continued. "It's about those people who take the car to work and sit in an office all day. We need them to make the change, we know not all can but it is important those that can do."

He stressed those needing to get off the buses should remember to press the green buttons at the doors as they would not open automatically.

"It was the first day back to school," he said.

"We introduced a brand new state-of-the-art ticketing system and the importance of that is in getting those on and off the buses quicker than before leads to efficiency."

The new ticketing system, he said, allowed the driver to focus on driving and the safety of the 105 passengers.

Of the space for 105 passengers on the new bus, there is only seats for 46. Mr de Burca said this was because the system was designed to be tram-like and they had the same proportions. He said all the roads had been resurfaced to give a smooth ride.

He said many of those that had taken the new service thought it was "fantastic" and people should allow the system to bed in.

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