Lochside Garage

Call to restore bus link for hospital patients

Ulsterbus Enniskillen

LOCAL MLA Rosemary Barton is calling for a new bus link between Enniskillen and Derry for Fermanagh patients attending Altnagelvin Hospital.
The call comes after the Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said a direct bus service between Altnagelvin and Enniskillen was discontinued due to a lack of demand.
Mr Hazzard was responding to an Assembly question from Mrs Barton on the services provided by Translink between Derry and Fermanagh and how the service is being utilised.
Mr Hazzard said the direct bus service, which ran for three years, was scrapped in 2015 when Translink’s route subsidies were significantly reduced.
“The previous direct services that operated from Enniskillen and Altnagelvin Hospital between September 2012 and September 2015 were judged to not be sustainable due to low passenger numbers,” he said.
“During 2015, bus subsidy to Translink reduced significantly. In conjunction with my Department, Translink continually monitors services to ensure that demand is met and that an appropriate level of service is in place,” he added.
Currently passengers from Fermanagh face a 120-mile return journey and changing buses up to four times each way in Enniskillen, Omagh and Derry.
Mrs Barton has stressed that the recent opening of the new North West Cancer Centre in Derry also adds urgency to the need for a link between Fermanagh and the city.
She told the Herald:
“While I understand that the reduction in subsidy in 2005 meant that the route directly to the hospital had become unsustainable, I believe that there is a strong argument to create a route that goes from Enniskillen to Derry, via Omagh.
“Presently, a sick, elderly or disabled person in Enniskillen with an appointment at Altnagelvin has to either walk between stops in Omagh or travel via Ballygawley. Both these options involve a journey taking longer than necessary and changing buses twice, with no journey shorter than 2.5 hours, all of which adds stress and difficulty to what can already be a very trying situation for the person involved.
“It is very welcome that there is an excellent new facility in the West of Northern Ireland. But its use to the people of Fermanagh is greatly diminished if it is extremely difficult to get to,” she added.

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