A bus route through an area of West Belfast has once again been cancelled following renewed attacks against drivers in recent days.
The decision was made after a brick was thrown through the drivers’ side window of a bus travelling through the city’s Lagmore View estate on Friday night – the second attack along the route in just three days.
Buses to Lagmore View had only been reinstated four weeks ago after being withdrawn for 18 months after buses were attacked with petrol bombs, catapults and air rifles.
Unite regional officer Davy Thompson said services, run by Translink, will now revert back to the previous diverted route, which excludes the Lagmore View estate.
Thompson said, “Attacks on buses in Lagmore View have been an ongoing problem for a number of years now. In the past, services have been withdrawn for a period of months only to return after assurances have been received from local political and community representatives.
“Unfortunately, it now appears that despite those best efforts there are some in the estate who, for whatever reason, are determined that bus services will not operate in the area.”
Only a matter of time
Thompson said the attacks are not just targeted at drivers but at the wider travelling public and that it will only be a matter of time before someone “is injured or maimed” if the service continues.
“Sadly the impact of withdrawal will fall heaviest on the most vulnerable in this deprived community. As everyone will know, over decades our drivers have taken huge risks to provide services across this city but the safety of our members and the travelling public must come first,” said Thompson.
“The drivers want to express their thanks to the local political and community reps for their efforts in this matter. It remains our hope that services might one day return to the area but at present we cannot foresee the circumstances under which that would occur.”
No other choice
Belfast City councillor Brian Heading said drivers had no other choice but to withdraw the route and blamed the attacks on a “minority of young people that are putting their neighbours at risk”.
Heading said, “I agree with Unite’s position as the health and safety of both drivers and the general public is paramount. It is however imperative that we work to ensure that the full service is restored as soon as possible.
“A small minority are taking part in anti-social behaviour and must be known to the local community.”
In an unrelated incident on Saturday, a female train conductor was repeated physically and sexual harassed by drunken passengers at Mossley West train station near Belfast.
The female worker and Unite member was grabbed painfully by a group of four male passengers during the journey after their alcohol had been confiscated by another staff member for rowdy behaviour.
When they exited the train at Mossley West station, the passengers once again subjected the conductor to further unwanted contact and became highly abusive in demanding that their alcohol be returned to them.
Translink shop steward and member of Unite’s Northern Ireland women and equalities committee, Pauline McCambridge, said conductor was “extremely upset” by the incident.
“Unfortunately assaults of this nature are common for public transport workers. It can be a very difficult job for workers who are often alone and have to react to situations that could become violent or distressing. They are in a very vulnerable position,” explained McCambridge.
“The worker in question has provided the police with a statement on the incident and Translink should be actively pushing for the prosecution of those responsible and providing all the support necessary for the conductor to get over what has been a very nasty experience.”
McCambridge added, “It is vital that employers in the public transport sector do all they can to give customer-facing staff the support and security needed to prevent instances like this from happening.”