East Belfast Alliance MLA, Cllr Naomi Long MLA (Alliance Regional Development Spokesperson) and Castlereagh Councillor Michael Long, have called on Government to rethink their public transport strategy and increase subsidies for services which are less profitable, but which provide vital links to public services. They made the call after local people attended a packed public meeting in Rosetta to protest about the loss of the Number 85 Citybus service and discuss potential improvements to the existing Easibus service.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Michael Long said, “Tonight’s meeting clearly demonstrates the strong local support for public transport in the area. Unfortunately, those who are most committed to and dependent on public transport, including older people and those with restricted mobility, are losing connection with vital services as a result of current policy of concentrating resources on a small number of core routes.
Naomi Long added, “Whilst we understand the rationale behind the current strategy of Translink, as they try to improve services on a limited budget, I believe that the Government must recognise that older people and those with restricted mobility are being disproportionately disadvantaged. The Government requires Translink to break even and so less profitable routes are simply dropped, despite the lack of alternative transport options. For example, people in this area have lost the only direct public transport link with vital services on the upper Ormeau Road, including their doctors’ surgeries, local library, post office and banks. Those who have no access to private transport are being left completely isolated from these community resources.
“The Easibus service is designed to target exactly this need, but when there are only two Easibuses to service the entire city, it is obvious that there are huge limitations. Due to the scheduling in Rosetta, a simple journey to the doctor can take up to four hours and is only possible on two days per week. For many this is simply not an option. If Government is serious about addressing accessibility to transport then increased funding is needed.
Cllr Michael Long concluded, “The residents took the opportunity at the meeting to suggest improvements to the existing Easibus service, which may provide a partial solution to the current situation and provide limited access to the Ormeau Road for local residents. However, it is clearly only a “better than nothing” option and until there is a fundamental shift in emphasis at policy level, people who rely entirely on public transport will continue to lose out.”