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Bus hijackers took the wrong road

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A highjacked bus burnt in the Rathcoole area

A highjacked bus burnt in the Rathcoole area

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A highjacked bus burnt in the Rathcoole area

It’s an expense our travel network can ill afford.

Translink has been hit with a bill of nearly half a million pounds to replace two buses targeted in hijackings last autumn.

And when a third hijacking is taken into account the sum to replace the destroyed buses in the fleet, diesel double deckers, will head towards the three quarters of a million mark.

All at a time when Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has admitted she’s “battling to ensure the survival” of the public transport provider.

Any possibility of making improvements to the service will be forgotten about for the time being. Simply replacing the vehicles destroyed during civil unrest sparked by loyalist opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol is damaging enough.

But this is not just about the money.

It’s about the tarnishing images that went around the world, the disruption to he service so many people rely on. Not everyone has access to a car.

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The buses were destroyed in separate incidents in the space of two costly days in Newtownards and Newtownabbey last November. A third bus was destroyed on the Shankill Road the previous April.

Translink’s financial worries were compounded by a dramatic fall in usage during the coronavirus pandemic.

It all adds up to a concerning situation for Northern Ireland’s public transport system.

North Down MLA Andrew Muir said “hundreds of thousands of pounds went up in smoke last year as a result of the criminal actions of thugs”.

You have to wonder who’s side the protesters were on? Certainly not on the side of making Northern Ireland a better place to live and work in.

And certainly not for the bus drivers, who took industrial action over safety fears in November.

“Our drivers provide a vital front-line service, helping people travel to work, school and family,” Translink said.

“We work within communities across Northern Ireland and any attacks on staff and public transport services are extremely disappointing. We completely condemn this type of behaviour and continue to work closely with the PSNI to report and investigate any incidents.”

Anyone with an ounce of common sense and decency would echo that.

The transport system that exists to serve the whole community should not be seen a target.

And those with a hand in destroying buses and robbing the taxpayer in the process will likely be the first to complain when it’s gone while the rest are forced, again, to suffer in silence as a result of their actions.


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