Mid Ulster MP hits out at proposed bus cuts that will affect the elderly

Ulsterbus town service
Ulsterbus town service

Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy has questioned the fairness of draft proposals which could mean the loss, or reduction, of town bus services in Mid Ulster’s three largest towns.

Hitting out at the plans, Mr Molloy said Transport Minister Danny Kennedy should first be looking to his own department for savings - and not to “services like buses” which were “designed for elderly people”.

Citing a move by the minister to spend “a pile of money to re-grass” the lay-bys at Tamnamore roundabout, he has called on the UUP MLA to “get his priorities right”, and will be seeking a meeting to discuss the recommendations.

“These cuts are unnecessary,” Mr Molloy told the Mail.

“The retaining of services is the important bit and whenever ministers are looking at cuts, they should first of all be looking within their own department.

“Services like buses and town services - which were designed for elderly people to allow them to get about - shouldn’t be the first thing that is looked at, and unfortunately that seems to be the situation.

“Danny Kennedy is insisting on closing down the parking lay-bys at Tamnamore - and is going to spend a pile of money to re-grass them - at the same time he is saying he has no money.

“I think they do need to get their priorities right and maintain the town service, which is of benefit to the regeneration of the towns as well,” he added.

And Mr Molloy said he will also be seeking answers as to why certain towns have been earmarked in the proposals. “Why pick certain towns?” he went on.

“Why pick certain services? And we certainly would be looking to talk to Translink on that.”

A spokesperson for Translink, which oversees bus and train services throughout Northern Ireland, told the Mail they have been asked to find a saving worth 20% of their budget.

“As a consequence of the potential reduction in funding of £15m (20%) Translink was requested to consider the measures that would need to be taken and the associated impacts. In addition to delivering challenging internal efficiency savings the draft consultation document highlights that town bus services are under threat as a result of the proposed reduction in funding. The withdrawal or reduction of services would focus on those routes which are less used.

“No decisions have been taken and we note that the budget is still draft and at the consultation stage. We await the outcome of the current consultation process and the final implications on funding before any decisions are taken.”

The public consultation is open until December 29.