MLA sets out on transport challenge

STRANGFORD Assembly member Kieran McCarthy took up the Age Concern/General Consumer Council challenge to make their way by public transport and leave the car at home today.

Mr McCarthy, who is Alliance’s Health spokesperson and speaks out on issues affecting the elderly, said he had managed to get where he wanted – but with a certain degree of luck!

Mr McCarthy travelled from the Ards peninsula to the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald for a 10.30am appointment, then went to shop in Ards Shopping Centre on the way home. He set out at 9.40am on the bus from his home village of Kircubbin.

Mr McCarthy said: “I am lucky to live in Main Street, because if I had lived outside the village, I probably would have had to walk two or three miles to reach the bus stop.

“I got the Belfast bus from Kircubbin, and got to the Ulster Hospital just before 10.30am to see my consultant. I was almost on time, although it was a rush up the hill on foot at the end.”

From the hospital, it was a walk back to the bottom of the hill to the bus stop.

“Thankfully there was a seat there. Then it was onto the shopping centre, followed by a 10 minute walk to the shops from the stop.

“I was a bit puffed, but there were seats along the way. After shopping, I got the Busybus to Ards bus station for 1pm. From there, it was onto the Portaferry bus and I arrived back in Kircubbin for 1.30pm.

“Living in the village is handy for bus users, but for rural travellers it would mean a long walk in order to use public transport. This is not so easy for a senior citizen.

“I still would urge everyone to make greater use of public transport. I will certainly continue to lobby for more resources, as access should be more widely available – but it definitely beats the congestion, stress and cost of the car.

“While planning my trip, I discovered a Bangor voluntary organisation called ‘People for People’, which organises one-off trips for older and disabled people. While this has to be booked a week in advance, it provides a useful service that deserves a mention.”

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