New timetable leaves gaps you could drive a bus through

The new Lisburn Bus Centre. US3708-535cd
The new Lisburn Bus Centre. US3708-535cd

A new Translink timetable rolled out today leaves gaps in Dromore service provision you could drive a bus through.

That’s according to at least some frustrated local passengers, who have accused Translink of short-changing them with a bus timetable barely fit for a backwater, never mind a town the size of Dromore.

Amid assertions locally that the transport provider is circling its wagons around larger urban services at the expense of others, Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson this week called for a review of the timetable and the introduction of more “realistic” peak-time services.

Though unable to respond fully due to the bank holiday, Translink itself said the changes were part of its overall plans to reduce costs due to what it called the significant reduction in public funding in 2015/16.

“They come into effect following the company’s largest ever public consultation earlier this year and after agreement with trade unions,” a spokesperson said, pending a more detailed response next week.

One Dromore woman complained the new timtetable - introduced today, September 1 - dispensed with four Lisburn-bound service buses, namely the 8.10am, the 11.10am, the 1.10pm and 1.50pm - this despite the many Dromore people who looked to Lisburn for employment, study, hospital services and shopping.

“After the 7.45am,” she said, “there is now no bus until 8.35am.

“Taking traffic congestion into account there’s a likelihood some people won’t be getting to work on time and what about people who maybe have nine o’clock appointments at the Lagan Valley Hospital?”

There were potential difficulties too, she said, for students at the South Eastern Regional College, for people who needed to access the train station in Lisburn and even just for the many people who would shop in the city.

Of the remaining buses, she added, some didn’t go via Dromore’s Market Square, while the express services wouldn’t get people into central Lisburn.

Return services too came under fire, notably for the gap between the 10.30am from Lisburn bus centre and the next bus at 2pm, and the loss of the 7.10pm, so that the last bus for Dromore leaves at 5.55pm, a potential difficulty for anyone whose business in Lisburn overruns of an evening.

“For some reason Dromore seems to have been targeted,” said the same woman. “I mean, it’s not like it’s a hamlet; it’s the second biggest town in what was Banbridge district.”

The new timetable, she said, had implications for efforts to regenerate Dromore, was out of step with policies encouraging use of public transport and would almost certainly hurt Lisburn too, in that people wold be forced to leave the city sooner than they might otherwise have planned.

Mr Donaldson, meanwhile, said: “Clearly there are many people who live in Dromore who comute to work each day and indeed the expansion of the town was predicated on the basis it was one of the main commuter towns on the A1 corridor.

“It is disappointing therefore that Translink have altered the timetable in a way that inconveniences a significant number of those who commute from Dromore on a daily basis using public transport.

“The thrust of transport policy has been to encourage more people to use public transport and reduce the number of cars on the roads and these changes run contrary to that policy.

“I have asked for an urgent meeting with senior representatives from Translink to ask them to review the timetable and introduce more realistic and suitable timings for the bus service at peak times from Dromore into Lisburn and Belfast.”